Friday, December 11, 2009

Hannah Senesh Day School Willingly Bought School Building Knowing There Was No Expansion Possibility




From The Acris Site

In our new state of the art facility we now have the physical space to grow in ways that were not previously possible. Dedicated spaces for technology, science, art, music, physical activity, and prayer, have made our already-strong programs even stronger.

Nicole Nash, Hannah Senesh principal

In June 2007, we moved to a beautiful, new home on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens. This spacious facility offers 22,000 square feet of space, which provides us with many opportunities to grow creatively and programmatically. A full-size gym, library with computer stations, science lab, beit midrash, rooftop playground, and art room are just some of the wonderful new spaces you’ll find at Hannah Senesh.

For those of you who have been following the controversy over the selling of publicly-owned land to a private school here in Carroll Gardens, I would like to add a few points to the discussion.

In 2005, Hannah Senesh Day School bought the former School Board 15 District office at 342 Smith Street from developer Bill Stein. The structure shares the same building lot as Bill Stein's 360 Smith Street development. When Stein sold the property to Hannah Senesh Day School, he kept the Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) for himself and transferred it to his 360 Smith Street development to get extra height. He also used the school's Community Facility Bonus and used that to bulk up his building as well. So in fact, Hannah Senesh willingly agreed to buy a building that had VERY LIMITED POSSIBILITY TO EXPAND and signed an agreement that places a meriad number of restrictions on the building.
(click here to see Acris site page 6 onward)

Also attached to the agreement between Bill Stein and Hannah Senesh Day School is a clause that would give Bill Stein half of any F.A.R. gained by an up-zoning of the lot.

Now, Hannah Senesh wants to expand "to give the school some flexibility." Since the building has no F.A.R. left, the school community is hoping to buy the courtyard next to it on First Place in order to construct a two story addition. The only problem is that the signature courtyards in Carroll Gardens are publicly-owned and are protected by a 150-year-old law. The law states that the courtyards can not be used for parking, nor can they be built on.

What to do?

Hannah Senesh claims that the school is just "exploring the possibility of expansion." However, the board hired lobbyist Ken Fisher as early as 2008, a mere 6 months after moving into their new facility. Fisher was paid $7,500 to lobby city officials on the school's behalf for the "acquisition of a lot currently owned by the city of New York" Now, surely, you do not need to hire a lobbyist if you merely want to explore the possibility. You hire a lobbyist to SELL an expansion.

Out-going Councilman Bill De Blasio was more than willing to help out. Without community input, he intended to introduce a bill which would have altered the old law to exempt the courtyard on First Place at Smith Street, thereby paving the way for Hannah Senesh to then buy the city-owned land.

When Carroll Gardeners found out, they were outraged and felt betrayed. How could our councilman abuse his power in such a way in order to facilitate this shameful land grab?

At a meeting with the community on Monday, December 7th, Amy Glosser, Vice-Chair of the school's Board Of Directors, stated that the school had no plans to increase their enrollment. "This is about making the school better, not about making it bigger."

The plans for the two story addition include a full size gym, a theatre as well as some additional classrooms.

For whatever reason,
Hannah Senesh's Board of Directors bought the building knowing fully well that it did not provide any room for future expansion. That is not the problem of the Carroll Gardens community and the school should not expect us to compromise a zoning resolution that protects our front yards.

Related Reading:

Bill De Blasio Courtyard Caper Delayed

Carroll Gardens Protests "Bill": An Open Letter To De Blasio

Dear Bill De Blasio: A Reader Strongly Protests

In 2008, Hannah Senesh Paid Ken Fisher To Lobby For Acquisition Of Lot Currently Owned By City

Will Bill And Brad Attend Hannah Senesh's 'Brief' Meeting About Expansion Into Publicly Owned Courtyard?

Councilman 'Dollar Bill' De Blasio's Underhanded Move To Amend A 150-Year Old Law Angers Many In Carroll Gardens

Breaking News! On His Way Out, Councilman Bill De Blasio Sticks It To Carroll Gardens

For Home Page, click Pardon Me For Asking


Anonymous said...

OK. The extension was planned since the beginning an Hannah Senesh School is trying to fool CG neighborhood.
1srt: they sold their air right to their friend Billy Stein knowing that they will have the agreement with their friends from the City Council to use the courtyard
2nd: They destroy the neighborhood.
I do not know which values this school carries and learn to their students; this is obviously far away from the heroism of Hannah Senesh. What a shame.

Plow to Plate said...

It's shameful how politicians can be lobbied. Would deBlasio allow this to happen if he lived in CG? Didn't he do all he could to protect his own neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

My god, imagine what this would do to our property values! A school with a theater AND a gym AND a computer lab? Shocking. In our neighborhood? Never. Let's get some flowers into that lot tuit suite, to protect our very way of life. I'm in total agreement with Anonymous @ 10:55 This K-8 school is bent on total destruction of the Carroll Gardens Way.