Friday, March 8, 2013
Have you seen the movie with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant? Her life's work is to save neighborhoods from being destroyed by developers and the movie is a romantic comedy about her efforts to do this. Well, I channeled Sandra Bullock the other night when I spoke to our Community Board 7 (CB7) for the upper west side. The Department of Education has proposed tearing down the school (PS 199) right next door to us and rebuilding it with the school on the bottom and a residential tower (30-50 stories) on the top. Kudos to the Department of Education for a creative way to have a world class school built and maintained without any cost to the city. It really is pretty clever. However, their cleverness would deeply impact our building. We would lose our views of Central Park, three years of construction mess would be a nightmare on our relatively quiet street, and quite frankly it would have a huge impact on the property values of our building. There are lots of other reasons it wouldn't be a good thing and I felt our voices needed to be heard. The first thing that irritated me about this is that the Department of Education had already solicited plans from developers and because of some crazy statute, they were not obligated to notify the neighborhood association about their plans. The plans were randomly discovered by some parents and word got filtered down through the school and then eventually to us. My new friends in the building (about 12 of us) decided to attend the CB7 meeting and express our feelings about the project. Fortunately the CB7 members were similarly distressed over the proposal so I thought I was off the hook and wouldn't have to get up and plead our case. My friend had different ideas and kind of shamed me into speaking to the board and about 100 other people who were attending the meeting. My friend spoke first and very eloquently asking questions about the process and how much influence we could yield as a neighborhood on the Department of Education. You are only given two minutes so she finished and I stood to speak. I had written something out and it was a list of my concerns if the proposal moved forward. Apparently I touched a few hearts because after I finished speaking everyone started clapping. Can I just say that for a few brief seconds I felt like a star. Had they carried me out on their shoulders, I wouldn't have felt better. The applause has died down, but I am fired up now and will lie down in front of the first bulldozer that arrives to tear down our precious PS 199.!