Harbor Middle Scool

New middle school slated for Red Hook, by Nathan Weiser

Tamar Smith talked about details regarding the new Harbor School.

A new intermediate school is on the horizon for Red Hook.

The Harbor High School on Governors Island is a pipeline into SUNY Maritime and linked to maritime careers.  They have long desired a middle school to bring students to them.

A proposed site near the Monarch Building is across from Coffey Park, and would be the only middle school in the neighborhood.

The site is privately owned and contains a two-story industrial warehouse and a paved vacant lot.

Tamar Smith, who some will remember as the longtime staffer for Assemblywoman Joan Millman, is now the community relations manager for the School Construction Authority (SCA). She briefed the community at a recent Community Board 6 meeting. The school has already been budgeted for.

According to Smith, it will take about two to three years for construction and another year for the design.

“We may be talking about four years altogether,” Smith said. “But it depends how it all goes and how long it takes to negotiate. We are hoping 2021 or 2022.”

The process has to go through the city council after a public comment period ends on December 23.

The SCA encourages individuals and organizations to send comments by email to sites@nycsca.org. You can also email Smith at tsmith5@nycsca.org. The SCA will consider every single comment or question in the process.

The idea for this new school originally came from when Durst LLC and Tom Fox, the operator of the Water Taxi, had plans to develop the Atlantic Basin. Senator Velmanette Montgomery has been a long-time supporter.

In October, 2017, she met with community stakeholders and SCA president Lorraine Grillo when the site location was first disclosed.

Montgomery had been looking for a way to better prepare applicants to the Maritime college.

“They were not prepared for the rigorous admissions required of SUNY Maritime,” Montgomery said. “That meant we had to figure out how can we do a better job to make sure that our students get in.” The first step was the high school. A middle school continues that process.

Montgomery thanked Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna for her help.

“The last step in our organized approach to this middle school was to finally meet the head of the School Construction Authority,” Montgomery said.

Reyna, the Deputy Borough President, spoke about how satisfied she is that this project is coming together. The Harbor School first started in her community of Bushwick and she was disappointed to see it leave but she sees benefits in the location and amenities at this school.

She pointed out that the school location, across from Coffey Park and near the iconic yellow building with the R on top, is not in the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), which she thinks is a real benefit. They work very hard to protect the IBZ.

“I want to make sure that you understand that in doing so, we protect the businesses and protect what is a working waterfront,” Reyna said.

“We have an opportunity to do this here and to do this right from the beginning,” Reyna said in the auditorium.

There was a question at the board meeting from a man who has business close to the site of the school about a concern for having too many school buses near the business’s trucks. District 15 Superintendent, Anita Skop, said that the school will not be served by school buses since this will be a middle school.

Skop added that once the school gets closer to completion they will work with elected officials on making transportation better in the area, which will in turn benefit the whole community.

“We want to see that kids have the opportunity to choose this school,” Skop said. “Clearly it is going to be an amazing facility. The thing that we have to remember is that the facility, as gorgeous as it is, is only as good as the wonderful teaching and curriculum that goes on in the building.”

“It is about critical thinking and strong reading skills,” Skop said. “Children who are skilled in maritime should be skilled in every aspect. This doesn’t mean that this is just a vocational opportunity.”

Karen Broughton and Felix Ortiz emphasized that there should have been better outreach so that more locals in the Red Hook Houses were aware of this meeting and a future school at this site.

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