Scoopy’s, Week of June 12, 2014
Jane’s School — sounds great! Local education and parent leaders are set on making the future middle school at 75 Morton St. truly a model of what a new school can be when the community is closely involved in shaping it from the start — down to the actual physical facility itself. There have been ongoing task force meetings on the school, but it’s now starting to get down to crunch time. The city’s School Construction Authority is set this Fri., June 13, to present the task force a preliminary “walk through” of uses that the agency envisions for each of the building’s floors. The task force will then send back its formal written feedback to the plans on Fri., June 20. Things are moving quickly, though — the design process could be completed by late summer or early fall. David Gruber, chairperson of Community Board 2, said the name people want is the Jane Jacobs School. Shino Tanikawa, president of Community Education Council District 2, said student diversity at the new school — and in the district — is something the task force really wants to look at. The advocates eagerly hope 75 Morton St. can open in 2016, but if it can’t be until 2017, then they hope the school can be “incubated” somewhere else; there are several sites that could work, they said. A major concern is that they do not want a combined gym and auditorium, a.k.a. a “gymnatorium” — “unacceptable,” they say — but, rather, a full gym and a separate auditorium, the latter which can also be used for theater productions. As Keen Berger, the task force’s chairperson, noted, this is the Village, so the school has to have a proper place for acting and performing. Tanikawa added that 75 Morton needs to have a cook-in kitchen, not a modified kitchen, since the latter can only warm up processed food. There are also issues about how a percentage of District 75 special-ed students will be incorporated into the school space. Heather Lortie, of the Morton Community Alliance, pointed out that the advocates working to make 75 Morton St. the best that it can be won’t ever see their own children go there, since they will have aged out. Sounds a lot like the local sports parents who are selflessly pushing to save Pier 40 as a great athletic facility for future generations of kids. Every community should be so lucky to have such concerned activists as these!
Printing House strike! Building workers at 421 Hudson St., the Printing House, went on strike Wednesday afternoon, in response to what they called intimidation and management’s threat to fire a worker after he was quoted in The Villager about wanting to join a union. The Printing House has made headlines for its luxury accommodations, and an apartment is currently listed for $14 million. But its roughly 10 concierges and cleaners make as little as $12 an hour and don’t have access to affordable healthcare. After The Villager article, in which Printing House porter Kevin Samuel expressed a desire for better pay and a union, management threatened to fire him, according to Samuel and 32BJ SEIU. He has worked at the building for more than 15 years. “I started speaking out, because it is almost impossible to make ends meet on my salary,” said Samuel, 58, who works as a night porter at the luxury building. “I’m trying to do right by my family, but we are barely making it. These apartments go for millions, so I know there is enough money to pay us decently.” Management also reportedly threatened to fire longtime concierge Arturo Vergara in response to his vocal support for improved working conditions. Samuel and Vergara were pictured on the front page of The Villager’s May 1 issue, along with Judge Frank Nervo, a resident, standing beside them in solidarity. Vergara, who has 3- and 6-year-old daughters, has worked as a concierge at the building for seven years. “We’re fighting for our families,” he said. “On my salary, I can barely afford the $800 a month I’m paying for my family’s healthcare coverage.” 32BJ has filed unfair labor practices charges in response to management’s alleged threats. Last year, the condo board, led by developer Myles Horn, hired what 32BJ calls “one of the most irresponsible contractors in the industry,” Planned Lifestyle Services, to act as the subcontractor and manage the Printing House’s building staff. P.L.S. is the residential arm of Planned Companies, a New Jersey-based maintenance and security contractor with what the union calls a long, documented record of labor violations.
Putting the word out: The Hudson River Park Trust and the Friends of Hudson River Park are no longer being represented by SKDKnickerbocker, the high-powered and politically connected lobbying firm. According to a source, the reason is that Gregory Boroff, the Friends’ executive director, wants to focus their P.R. more on fundraising, which is the Friends’ primary role, and “brand building.” A good example of this new tack was the Friends’ recent star-studded HRPK Experience auction, in which people bid to go sailing in the park’s waters with Brooke Shields and play tennis on the Canal St. courts with Dennis Leary or minigolf on Tribeca’s Pier 25 with reality TV real estate broker Fredrik Eklund. SKDKnickerbocker represented both the Trust and Friends, and was involved in lobbying the state Legislature on the air-rights transfer legislation that was passed by the Assembly and state Senate last June at the end of the legislative session. The Friends and Trust are now being represented by the equally politically connected Risa Heller Communications. A rep there told us the changeover had nothing at all to do with the recent hoopla over the Pier 40 secret air-rights transfer M.O.U.