New FOIL Docs from SCA Reveal its Own Architect Didn't Give Dock St. School a Passing Grade in 2007

Council Member David Yassky revealed in FOIL documents back in March 2009 that the School Construction Authority (SCA) may have said one thing about building a middle school in Dumbo but internally discussing their preference for the Dock St Dumbo site for a new middle school. Over the weekend, DumboNYC received a new round of documents from the office of David Yassky that there are further FOIL documents that support the evidence that the SCA coordinated with Two Trees to propose a middle school in the controversial development on Dock Street in Dumbo. Although the zoning change has already been approved, Mr. Yassky is showing further support that “what is also now clear, thanks to this astounding email, is that the developer of the Dock Street property was spewing false propaganda—is there any other kind?—about the proposed school’s amenities, which fall far short of SCA’s standards for public schools.” See David Yassky’s full statement below. On page 6-7 is an email from Bruce Barrett, SCA’s own architect who concluded that “the propsal would yield an extremely small school (compromised from our standards), with premium costs due to mixed-use with the high rise residential building. Additional costs for impact of Green design and other aspects of the shared use may arise during design.” The FOIL Documents can be downloaded here (1.4mb PDF).

The new round of documents from SCA confirm our worst suspicions—that the City did not seek out the best deal. According to one email from SCA, their in-house architect and engineer concluded in late 2007 that the proposed Dock Street middle school “would yield a very small school (compromised from our standards) with premium costs due to the mixed use with the high-rise residential building.”

I urge you to re-read that sentence and the full email— compromised from our standards and with premium costs. We know now that Dock Street did not represent the best deal for City taxpayers and the future students into the district.

What is also now clear, thanks to this astounding email, is that the developer of the Dock Street property was spewing false propaganda—is there any other kind?—about the proposed school’s amenities, which fall far short of SCA’s standards for public schools:

  • The developer claimed that the Dock Street school would be a total of 45,000 square feet. But, the school will be closer to 40,000 square feet—more than 10% smaller than their pronouncements. According to the email containing the structural analysis, 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of the school floor area will be lost due the needs of the residential structure above
  • As opponents of Dock Street continuously pointed out, the proximity to the high-traffic Brooklyn Bridge and the location in a manufacturing zone has serious consequences that should disqualify the site. The SCA architect agreed citing “potential safety, environmental and noise impacts” and “traffic noise and pollution and minimizing daylight and fresh air.” All of this was vehemently denied by all the project’s many proponents
  • The Dock Street proposal bragged about its state-of-the-art 20-foot-high gymnasium. Again, due to structural needs, about five feet would be taken out, leaving about “15 feet of clear height.” That would only be about two feet higher than a backboard on a typical high school basketball court. According to SCA “that would “not be a gym per se” because SCA’s standard gym height is 23 to 24 feet. SCA recommended using the space not as a gym, but as a multi-purpose room

SCA knew about these issues and more since late 2007, yet did nothing to correct the record when these misrepresentations about the project were made repeatedly to the public in presentations and public hearings.
This email, seen in newly released documents from SCA, was a full year before the SCA conducted site selection for the Dock Street public school, which half-heartedly included two other sites, one of which was the proposed P.S.8 expansion.

Other emails show that SCA collaborated—and possibly colluded—with the Dock Street developer on designing a school well before it conducted the site selection process.
Instead of conducting due diligence for the best location for a public school to serve the needs of the community, SCA chose one location, Dock Street, then ignored and steamrolled over cries for due diligence.

Shame on the SCA for completing a deal for a school that is apparently not suitable for the students it is supposed to serve and far more expensive than it should be as a result of the shocking lack of due diligence for alternative sites.

As I have said all along the Dock Street School was and is a bad deal. It is tantamount to a literal and figurative robbery. I urge the Inspector General to conduct an immediate inquiry and to call on SCA for a full accounting.

David Yassky

More from past posts:
Past Dock Street Dumbo articles
David Yassky Presses School Authorities on Dock St School Alternatives (w/ FOIL Docs)
Dock Street Dumbo Opposition Rally at City Hall
CB2 Land Use Committee Member’s Open Letter About Dock St Dumbo
Two Trees’ Land Use Counsel’s Response to CB2 Land Use Committee Member’s Open Letter
Dock St Dumbo Protest Calls for Investigation

Note: As a forum to provide all sides of Dumbo-related issues, we’ve posted the letter in full, the content and opinions expressed in the letter do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they an endorsement against (or for) the project by DumboNYC.

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