2006-03-03 / Community

Mayor Cuts PS 114 Accessibility Project

Blames Lack Of State Funding For Cut
By Howard Schwach


A project that would have made Public School 114 in Belle Harbor accessible to handicapped students has been cut by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the wake of the state’s refusal to provide the proper funding to New York City Schools, a local City Councilman has charged.

The accessibility project, a capital project scheduled for 2005, would have brought back to the local students those handicapped students now bused out of the neighborhood because of a lack of ramps and other handicapped accessible amenities.

Now, that project was recently put on hold by Mayor Bloomberg until 2009 at the earliest.

Bloomberg recently held a press conference to address the halt on the construction of 21 new schools and the reconfiguration or renovation of 68 others. In his press conference, the mayor blamed Governor Pataki and state legislators for not adequately funding the city’s schools, especially in light of the state’s refusal to obey a court order brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE).

“It’s time for the state to end its delinquency,” Bloomberg said. “The state must do what’s right and meet its duty to the city’s schoolchildren. New York City public schools are being shortchanged year after year and the courts have determined that [the state] has a constitutional obligation to provide this critical funding.”

Bloomberg said that the lack of critical funding will cut 15,000 new classroom seats, delay 21 construction projects (including the PS 114 project), 40 science labs, 15 new school libraries, 40 new art facilities and 20 new technology labs.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who represents the Belle Harbor neighborhood, was angered by the cut and wrote a letter to Mayor .

“This [cut of the PS 114 project] is unacceptable to me as well as my constituents,” he wrote in his February 21 letter. “Students with a variety of handicapped conditions do not have access to PS 114 and must be bused to schools in another community. I believe that all students should be able to receive the education they are entitled to in their own local community school.” Alicia Maxey Green, a spokesperson for the Department of Education corroborated that the project had indeed been cut by the mayor.

“That project and many others were put at risk pending funding by the state,” she said. “It is one of 68 projects that were put at risk.”

Political experts have pointed out that the majority of cuts made by the mayor were in school districts where the local representatives were involved in holding up the state funding. State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said that he would not “be beaten with a club” by the mayor because he won’t back the judge’s order. “We don’t cater to threats and we don’t relate to people who are literally threatening us to get something done that is unfair and unjust,” Bruno said, terming the judge’s decision to give billions to the city schools as “lunacy.”

Addabbo hopes that the mayor will place the PS 114 project back into this year’s budget, but school experts tell The Wave that is unlikely to happen unless a compromise is made in the CFE case.

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