Status of the Environmental Impact Statement
The New York State Department of Health has not yet issued the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will determine the next steps in this process. Our current understanding is that the EIS will likely be released in November, some time after Election Day. This is a good thing: it further slows down the approval process and time is on our side. The parent lawyers on the Task Force will soon begin working on an Article 78 petition. Such a petition would be our court challenge to the EIS if the EIS greenlights the project without the mitigation measures we believe are essential to keeping our kids safe and able to learn. The Article 78 petition will have to be filed no later than 4 months after the release of the EIS. Generally, Article 78 petitions take 3-6 months to be decided. We believe we have some solid legal arguments to stretch that process further.
Discouragingly, we have gotten no traction in our meetings and discussions with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the School Construction Authority (SCA). A number of TFSS members met with Kathleen Grimm, the DOE’s chancellor for operations, and Lauren Grillo, President of SCA, in July. We presented our mitigation requests, which include:
-Double glazed (sound-proof) windows for the entire school;
-Central or split air conditioning for the entire school;
-New classrooms to replace outdated trailers;
-Payment for the PTA to hire an environmental engineering firm to monitor construction for toxins, noise and vibrations;
-New garden (currently, the PTA has a grant for a garden that is used for educational purposes, but given the trailer demolition and the shadows that would be created by the nursing tower, a new garden space will have to be identified and built);
-Assistant teachers in all classrooms for the duration of the construction (and, we hope, permanently) to allow P.S. 163 to continue to attract a diverse student body in the face of such challenging circumstances.
Council Member Mark Levine, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and a representative from State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s office attended the July meeting. TFSS members were told that the DOE and SCA would then meet with Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL), the entity that proposes to build the nursing home, which they did on August 14, and that they would set up a follow-up meeting with us in late August. That has not happened yet despite our requests.
Proposed Legislation: Looks Promising!
Council Member Levine has delivered on the noise legislation he pledged. We have already reached out to every Community Educational Council in NYC (there are 32 of them) and asked them to take up this legislation and get their school communities to press their Council members to get this legislation passed. We are developing a comprehensive strategy to get the bill passed. Advocacy is critical. If you have connections to Council Members beyond the Upper West Side - or have other ideas about passage of this legislation - please get in touch with us via this website.
What Needs To Happen Now
We need citywide mobilization to get New Yorkers to call their Council representatives to get this bill through committee, to the floor and to a favorable vote. This single step has the very real potential to STOP the JHL project and keep our school - and all NYC schools – safe from construction hazards.
We also need to continue to mobilize the press, and we are hopeful that those of you with experience/connections in this area will help us set that strategy and lead on this key issue.
We are developing a phone bank to call Council Members all across the city to request that they co-sponsor the legislation (if they have not already) and to ensure the bill becomes law. This is something you can participate in and requires limited time (less than 30 minutes per week) but will have significant impact. If you want to pitch in, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rene Kathawala, TFSS Chair