Spirits were high as parents and politicians expressed their commitment to protecting the school from, among other dangers, the hazards of high-decibel construction noise that will become the deafening auditory backdrop to this scene if construction is greenlighted by the New York State Department of Health.
The rally was intended to call attention to City Council Bill No. 420. If enacted, this legislation would prohibit noise levels that exceed 45 decibels during school hours in any New York City school that is sited within 75 feet of a construction zone and would require noise levels at such sites to be continuously monitored.
PS 163's Task Force for a Safe School (TFSS), a parent group working to protect the school from the threats presented by the proposed construction, was instrumental in getting Council Member Mark Levine to draft and introduce the Bill. TFSS is now lobbying all City Council Members to co-sponsor the Bill, which needs 32 members to support it before it can be voted on and potentially made law. At present, 14 council members are on board. Click here to learn how you can help this effort.
At Tuesday's rally, Council Member Mark Levine, Congressman Mark Nadler, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell were front and center in demonstrating their support for Bill No. 420 and for the safety and learning environment of all P.S. 163 students.
Josh Kross, co-President of the P.S. 163 PTA and father of two children at the school, later commented, "I was really impressed by all the political figures there who showed up to support the city's children, from local council members to U.S. representatives. What's left a greater impression, sadly, has been the silence from other city officials such as the Mayor and Speaker [Melissa Mark-]Viverito, as well as the UFT leadership." Kross's reference to the United Federation of Teachers reflects the disappointment of some parents at the school over the lack of engagement from school administration and teachers in this issue.
Kashi Behrstock, the mother of two P.S. 163 students, spoke at the rally, saying "I believe that the foundation of a child’s future is a strong education and the foundation of our society’s future is our children. For this reason I stand here [ …] to bring to your attention Bill 420, which is designed to help protect our children from destructive construction noise."
The rally atmosphere of activism and empowerment was enriched by the performances from El Taller Latino Americano musicians, led by world-renown folk artist Bernardo Palombo. His presence underscores P.S. 163’s diverse community - nearly 50% of the 600+ students at the school are Hispanic and the school has long attracted local families to its Spanish-English dual language program.
The songs and spirit of the rally embodied the commitment parents at the school feel to ensuring commercial interests are not allowed to trump the unique learning environment their children share at 163.
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