NYC Housing Authority provides homes for charter schools

July 18, 2011 11:11AM

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From left: Rendering of the Harlem Children Zone’s Academy and the DREAM Charter School in Harlem

As charter schools increase their presence in the city, they’re acquiring land from an unexpected source: the New York City Housing Authority. Crain’s reported the authority is selling the land in order to preserve public housing.

The agency has been cash-strapped since the Bush administration ceased allocation of federal subsidies to the authority, but still owns a “huge chunk” of the city’s valuable land. According to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer the agency operates at a $42 million to $64 million budget deficit, and so it has begun selling its land for money to preserve affordable housing.

The agency said that in its efforts to pursue “financial returns, socioeconomic impact and environmental sustainability” it has sold some of the land to the charter schools. For example, the Harlem Children’s Zone Academy paid the Housing Authority $7 million for land at the St. Nicholas Academies in May, and the DREAM Charter School in Harlem struck a deal worth millions to build on one of the authority’s unused lots.

Critics say the sales are bringing schools to a neighborhood that doesn’t suffer from the same overcrowding problem that plagues many of the city’s other school districts. They believe it is another example of the Bloomberg administration prioritizing friendships with the private sector, which gets tax credits for their donations to charter schools, over the needs of the city. Others blame the authority for a lack of foresight, believing it could get better returns on its valuable land. [Crain’s]