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City officials say a new building for P.S. 133 means state-of-the-art facilities, but Boerum Hill residents say it means rats, traffic, shadows and damage to homes.
Representatives for the School Construction Authority (SCA) and city Department of Education (DOE) butted heads with locals at a Community Board 6 public hearing about the city’s plan to build a five-story, 900-seat school for P.S. 133, located at 375 Butler Street.
“When you have a big building like that people won’t see it as a school. I see it as a commercial building,” said Butler Street resident Tanya Chance. “It’s nice the way it is. The building is not too big.”
The city wants to construct the new building, which would be located within School District 13, on P.S. 133’s schoolyard. It would be 116,000 square feet – more than twice as large as P.S. 133’s current 46,000 square feet. Officials say it would be marginally taller than the existing P.S. 133.
But residents believe the increased height and floor area ratio are too much.
“A building that size doesn’t belong in that neighborhood,” said Butler Street resident S.J. Avery.
The DOE contends that the existing P.S. 133 building is 100 years old and neither air conditioned nor handicap-accessible.
A bigger building means more students and staffers.
It would house three elementary schools – one serving 346 P.S. 133 students, another for 535 District 15 students and a third for 60 District 75 special education students. (A District 15 school is included because the new building would be constructed with funding earmarked for District 15, which is more overcrowded than District 13.)
“There’s going to be tripling the number of teachers. Where are they going to put their cars?” said Baltic Street resident Paul Sweet. “We’re going to lose all of our parking in the neighborhood.”
Some homeowners fear they might lose something else.
“I am concerned about the undermining of my property,” said Butler Street resident Marcia Murray. “I’m not sure of the structural damage that might be incurred by your construction.”
There’s also the issue of vermin that might scrounge around during the construction phase.
“Rats, once you dig up. New York is famous for their rats,” Murray said.
Julie Claire, a member of the Baltic Street Garden located in P.S. 133’s schoolyard, said the rats are “already in people’s basements on Baltic Street.”
As part of the project, P.S. 133’s current building will be demolished. In its place will be a playground and a community garden since the Baltic Street Garden now sitting in P.S. 133’s schoolyard will be upheaved during construction.
The placement of the new garden will provide for an increase in direct sunlight, SCA reps said.
However, neighborhood residents who plant vegetables in the Baltic Street Garden have reservations about the new green space.
“That garden is less than half the size of our current garden,” said Degraw Street resident Trouy Kannapell. “Our garden is 30 years old and it is beautiful.”
Jim Devor, first vice president of District 15’s Community Education Council (CEC), said providing children with state-of-the-art school facilities outweighs maintaining P.S. 133’s “small and hardly unique school building.”
“It’s incumbent upon us to support the Department of Education on the rare occasion when it gets something right,” he advised.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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