These kids just can’t get a break.
The swirling controversy surrounding the reconstruction of the School Settlement House on Jackson Street continued at this month’s community board meeting last week.
The Board however approved the organization’s reconstruction request, despite some opposition from a few local residents.
However, there were some conditions set by the board for the approval, and the School Settlement Organization in turn agreed to them all: creating a task force on the Board to oversee the construction, to hold regular meetings on the project, to have a prominent exhibit chronicling the history of the building once the new space is constructed, and an emergency contact number provided for the project managers if anything happens during the project.
The reconstruction project is taking place in large part due to increasing demand for enrollment for classes at School Settlement that cater to low and middle-income children in North Brooklyn.
School Settlement has argued that its current 113-year-old facility does not have enough resources or space to deal with the increasing demand.
The reconstruction project, which will cost about $18 million, will see the current three-story building demolished to make way for a four-story structure fitted with modern classrooms, a state-of-the-art auditorium, a gym, and elevators.
Some nearby residents however were none too pleased. They raised concerns about the demolition of a “historic landmark,” the noise created by the project, disappearance of parking spots, and the general inconvenience brought on by construction crews.
“Nobody wants to deprive these kids but what about the problems the construction will create for my kids and family?” said Phil Montana, a resident who lives across from the building, at the Community Board meeting last week. “What about preserving this neighborhood? Constructing a monster building is not the answer.”
Despite residents’ concerns the building is neither landmarked by the Landmarks Preservation Committee nor is it located in a historic district.
Conversely the project has a lot of support from local residents as well. Dozens of children holding placards in support of the new building along with their parents were present at last week’s Community Board meeting, and talked about the much needed resources the new building would bring.
“As a mother to a 5-year-old I know the programs School Settlement offers have really helped the kids in our neighborhood,” said Lisa Rappaport, who also lives close to the building. “Our kids need a place to go. This is the only affordable option left for all of us.”
At present there are opposing petitions on change.org for and against the construction of the project, the former however has attracted the bulk of the signatures with 592 at last count.
The School Settlement Association was founded in 1901 by local teachers and residents. Today the organization offers afterschool programs, summer camps, teen-specific programs, and family workshops. The organization hopes to make those services available to an even larger group.
The application for reconstruction will now go before the Board of Standards and Appeals before construction can commence.