I was running a few errands yesterday afternoon when I stumbled upon an anti-apartheid protest rally in Park Slope. It was loud and well-attended and I contemplated trying to get a shot but it was dark and my crackberry wasn't up to the task.
It turns out that the students and parents of the smaller middle schools currently housed at John Jay are not happy about plans for a successful city high school, Millenium, to start up an outpost in Brian William's last frontier of Brooklyn.
Now, as it happens, I have long made fun of my mother for having attended Manual Training High School. That's what nee John Jay was called before it was John Jay and before it was whatever the names are of the three middle schools currently housed in the moldering but humongous building.
I was actually quoted in an article Park Slope Patch did on the plans for a new Millenium a few weeks ago. They needed somebody to admit that we still avoid the place like the plague and no way, no how will send our little sweetlings over to be ghettified.
When I was a young Barnes and Noble bound BREEDER, we used to cross over to avoid the profane posses of loud-mouths coming out of John Jay. I can testify to the fact that things have improved along 7th Ave since the school closed its doors and I know next to nothing about the new schools except that they were working hard and turning things around, reportedly.
I didn't know until I read the actual article that:
"Every time it rains, there's paint chips all over the floor and the desks"
That's from a teacher, by the way, and not exactly grammatically-correct but it's a good visual. Also didn't know about:
mirrors ripped out of bathroom walls; faulty plumbing; asbestos. Scarce books ruined by leaky ceilings. Overpowering heat and frigid cold. Classrooms equipped with only a single electrical outlet. Mold growing so thick in one classroom that the teacher had to find a new one.
Williams said that she and her colleagues have been requesting capital improvements to the 1903 building for years, with no response from the Department of Education
Now, just down the street at PS 321, we have some issues. That 30-year-old temporary storage unit now permanently known as the "mini school" in the backyard, being one. But we definitely are in better shape than what's described above.
It sucks that this school building and many, many others are in such bad shape: that they're a fucking health hazard to students and staff.
Hey, we should all be thankful we don't live in Staten Island according to today's Gothamist posting on their public schools...
For the second day in a row, some Staten Island public school students have ditched school—with the EPA's permission. Ten classrooms in two schools were closed yesterday because higher-than-acceptable levels of PCBs were detected. Notably, when a PS 36 teacher complained about fluid leaking from a lighting fixture, "more 200 times the accepted amount of 50 parts per million" of PCBs were found in two classrooms. While students in those two classrooms were pulled, other parents removed their students from the school— the attendance rate was 26% at PS 36.
So, I get that the protesters are pissed at the thought of a new white hope high school coming to the "John Jay campus" and getting all the moolah while they stay mired in PCBs and chipping lead paint.
But, what I don't get is why that has to be the case. Why can't it be a win-win for everybody? Park Slope gets a decent high school of its own after decades of drought. The current schools also get improvements. And they all co-exist in their renovated classrooms and hallways. They've got that nice pool, too.
Why does one necessarily preclude the other? Why are we racist pigs because we want a high school for neighborhood kids?
Gothamist lays out a hilariously scary accounting of growing up here in the bad old days. The formative days. You may remember your own.
"During high school, we had to take special measures to avoid ever being on 7th Avenue between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.," says the resident, who would only speak to us anonymously because of lingering John Jay fears. "I remember once where I accidentally got home around 4 p.m. with a few friends, and we got surrounded outside Methodist. The John Jay kids grabbed me by the backpack to shake me down. My friends were like, 'Oh no, they got him!' and were gone so quick it was like a cartoon.
"I could go on and on—about the time we got jumped for a pie from Smiley's ('Yo, you got my slice, son?') or the time my sister got held up with a box cutter by some Jay kids at the F station on 7th Avenue. And every Thursday it seemed like some of the girls would come down to fight girls who were in the 9th grade at JHS 51—tremendous contests of wills where the object was to rip the opponent's hoop earrings out. It'll be sad if the next generation of Park Slope kids is denied these experiences. I think they were character building.
So, I hope all went well and all the ills of the hood were solved last night by Brad Lander and whoever else was attending. Give peace a chance!