City wants to turn Village warehouse into public school

By Jovana Rizzo | August 06, 2008 04:13PM

Parents, preservationists and now the city are asking New York State to turn a former West Village warehouse into a public school.

The city Department of Education sent a letter yesterday to the Empire State Development Corp. saying it is interested in turning 75 Morton Street into a middle school.

The state, however, plans to sell the building, which houses the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, a facility that is being moved.

The neighborhood fears the state will sell the building to a residential developer, which critics say would only put more demand on overstretched local schools.

The Public School Parent Advocacy Committee (PS PAC) and Community Board 2 are holding a rally today in support of converting the seven-story building, which occupies 153,000 square feet, into a school.

“We have over 100 percent capacity in our classrooms in the Village,” said Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2. “[75 Morton] seems readily adaptable to be used as a new school, so we’re extremely gratified that the city has indicated it wants to locate a school here.”

Leonie Haimson, head of the parent advocacy organization Class Size Matters and a PS PAC committee member, said the middle schools in the area “are severely overcrowded.”

The Greenwich Village Middle School, located on one floor of P.S. 3 at 490 Hudson Street, is at 117 percent capacity, according to the Villager.

“In that district there are overcrowded schools,” said Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the city Department of Education. “Our capital plan is always looking at places that are in need of more space, and where it would be appropriate to create a new school.”

Holyman said ideally Greenwich Village Middle School could move into the building, giving it, and P.S. 3, more space.

In a letter to the state and city, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, wrote that 75 Morton Street is on the border of the Greenwich Village Historic District “which is facing increasing development pressure and more and more inappropriate development, such as the 45-story Trump Soho Condo-Hotel. We cannot stress strongly enough how much we would prefer to see this building re-used … rather than to have it simply sold off to the highest bidder.”

The Empire State Development Corp. was not immediately available for comment.

James Nelson, a partner at Massey Knakal, said the property is zoned for commercial uses or a hotel, and could be worth $550-$700 per square foot, depending on various factors including existing development rights and the building’s ceiling heights.