Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ratner's Brooklyn Tech plan was hot air; school won't move

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle this week had a scoop, shooting down the vague plans for a new "21st century" Brooklyn Tech and the rumors that Forest City Ratner wanted the eight-story building--the largest high school built in the country--at the edge of Fort Greene Park.

In the article, headlined Brooklyn Tech Won’t Move, Dept. of Ed Assures Alumni, the Eagle notes that the building, which has a 3012-seat theater and basement swimming pool, has gone through several recent upgrades to its labs, library, wireless and fiberoptic network, and athletic facilities.

Valuable real estate

The Eagle reports:
The thought of moving Tech is “unconscionable,” says alumnus Melvin Band, who confronted Schools Chancellor Joel Klein at the January 22 Educational Panel meeting about the Daily News article. “Tech will get a much smaller school made with spit in a less safe neighborhood. On the other hand, you’ll get the goose that lays the golden eggs — Tech’s cash cow,” Band said he told the chancellor.

Band says it’s all about real estate. “Do I have a bid for Tech’s 600,000 square feet of real estate, the size of 11 football fields, in a vibrant neighborhood, with all the amenities? How much am I bid for Tech’s modern theater with an old-world touch? Three thousand and twelve seats, third only to Radio City Music Hall. It would make a terrific addition to BAM, not to mention the naming rights. How does Barclays Bank Theater sound?”


Barclays, of course, has bought naming rights to Forest City Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards arena.

DOE backs off

Last week, DOE spokesperson Melody Meyers put it plainly, telling the newspaper, “No, we are not moving Brooklyn Tech. We are looking into the need for new schools as the Atlantic Yards project gets under way. Brooklyn Tech is the largest high school building in the country.”

Spinning a Ratner retreat

The Eagle quoted Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco: “In December, when the PACB approved the [Atlantic Yards] project, we issued a statement that said, among other things, that FCRC would work with the city, the state and the UFT if they all agreed on the creation of a new Brooklyn Tech. So yes, that is something we would do, but the question on what to do should really be directed to them.”

Actually, the FCR statement issued 12/20/06 was less conditional than as portrayed by DePlasco:
Mr. Ratner today also announced some additional programs to support the Atlantic Yards project....In addition to these project specific elements, FCRC will also work with the City, State and the United Federation of Teachers on the creation of a new 21st Century Brooklyn Tech High School, at a yet to be determined location in the borough.


The project was announced by FCR; the developer was not taking a back seat, as DePlasco suggests. But DePlasco is paid to spin.

Where's UFT?

A prime mover in the phantom plan was the United Federation of Teachers, which put its political muscle into backing Atlantic Yards and perhaps was looking for a bigger payoff than simply a shot at affordable apartments for some of its members.

The Daily News reported last December 22, a speculative article on the school plan:
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said a new building would be "a win-win situation. Brooklyn Tech, already a strong school, has the potential to become a world-class high school. ... To accomplish that, it needs a state-of-the-art facility."

Credibility?

Alumnus Band told the Eagle that Klein in February disavowed any plan to move Tech; however, Band questioned that, saying, “Bruce Ratner is not going to make false public statements that would impugn his credibility."

Band apparently has not been following Atlantic Yards issues such as the $5.6 billion lie or the elastic project timeline.

And the Daily News, which overinflated a vague plan into a headline stating Nets go High Tech: Ratner throws in new home for elite Brooklyn HS in arena deal, should print a correction--on page 2, where the original story appeared. (Note: the headline in the BTHS News is a summary, not the actual headline.)

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