Schools are racing to lease extra space for socially distanced classes

Gov. Cuomo on Friday gave the the green light to reopen schools

New York /
Aug.August 10, 2020 10:32 AM
Mayor Bill de Blasio with Jing Fong at 20 Elizabeth Street in Chinatown and St. John the Divine at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights (de Blasio by Noam Galai/Getty Images; Jing Fong via Facebook; St. John the Diving via Google Maps)

Mayor Bill de Blasio with Jing Fong at 20 Elizabeth Street in Chinatown and St. John the Divine at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue in Morningside Heights (de Blasio by Noam Galai/Getty Images; Jing Fong via Facebook; St. John the Diving via Google Maps)

A church and a massive dim sum restaurant are among the spaces the city may lease to host socially distanced classes this fall.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza in mid-July announced the city would search for external spots for schools to use for instruction and programming. But now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday gave the green light to reopen schools in September, the hunt for space has ramped up, according to The City.

Local officials, along with the Real Estate Board of New York, are reaching out to their communities, asking information on potential schooling sites.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s staffers and interns, for example, fielded calls to nonprofits, churches, community centers to collect information on potential sites. On Friday, they sent out a spreadsheet with the information to Carranza, which included plazas, privately-owned public spaces and unused office and hotel spaces.

Jing Fong, an 850-seat, 20,000-square-foot dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, was among the properties included in the report. The city is also eyeing St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, which has 2,500 seats, and the Schomburg Center in Harlem, which has 75,000 square feet.

Still, the plan to reopen is up in the air, and the teacher’s union has openly questioned the safety of resuming in-person classes.

On Friday, United Federation of teachers President Michael Mulgrew wrote on Twitter: “As Governor Cuomo noted, parents and teachers must be confident that schools are safe before they can reopen. In New York City that is still an open question.”

Mayor de Blasio responded, saying “the bottom line here is we have been working on all fronts to make schools safe.” [The City] — Akiko Matsuda

 

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