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July 8, 2013 Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor New York City Department of Education Tweed Building 52 Chambers Street, Room 405 New York, New York 10007 Dear Chancellor Walcott: I am deeply concerned about reports that the Department of Education plans to once again change the co-location arrangement for building M149, which currently hosts PS 149, PS 811, as well as Harlem Success Academies 1 and 4. Department of Education representatives informed several parents from PS 811 in June of this year that their school would lose three classrooms to Success Academy. These changes, whether they take effect in the coming school year or thereafter, could negatively affect the District 75 program at PS 811, harming students with disabilities. This news has come as an unwelcome surprise to many parents in this school community. Neither the Building Utilization Plan approved on June 27, 2011 nor last year’s amended plan suggested that PS 811 would lose any classroom space due to co-location. In fact, the 2011 and 2012 plans projected that PS 811 would continue to receive 12 full-size classrooms and 7 half-size classrooms at least until the end of the 2013-2014 school year. PS 811 parents are rightly frustrated and upset to hear that they will lose classrooms after receiving assurances to the contrary. This would be the third modification to this co-location arrangement—and the third such change that would expand space and resources for Success Academy at the expense of the traditional public schools in the M149 building. Previously, the Department allowed Success Academy 1 to expand and co-located Success Academy 4 into the same building. These were not responsive adjustments made in close consultation with all stakeholders. Both this present change and those that preceded it have reconfigured the school building to advantage Success Academy, and none took place with the level of outreach this community deserves. Indeed, these changes appear to be part of a sustained pattern to privilege Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools with space and resources at the expense of the traditional public schools with which they share buildings. This change, and others that preceded it, are further alienating parents and school communities in Harlem. These revisions have all the appearance of an attempt to rush through and lock in advantages for Success Academy before leadership at City Hall changes. Pursuant to New York Freedom of Information Law, N.Y. Public Officers Law (FOIL) § 94 et seq., and New York Charter, Sections 23(h) and (J), and on behalf of the affected school communities, I request the DOE provide my office with responses to the following questions:
What are the specific changes that the Department is proposing for building M149, which currently hosts PS 149, PS 811, and Harlem Success Academies 1 and 4? When are these changes proposed to take effect? Why were such changes not addressed in the original EIS from 2011? What changes to enrollment, programming or school needs have occurred to justify the loss of classroom space for PS811, a District 75 program?
Thank you for your time and attention on this matter. I ask that you respond to this request no later than Friday, July 19th at 5pm. Sincerely,
Bill de Blasio Public Advocate for the City of New York
1 CENTRE STREET
NEW YORK NY 10007
TEL 212 669 7200
FAX 212 669 4701 HTTP://ADVOCATE.NYC.GOV