The state has approved a plan to open a charter school for troubled youths at Floyd Bennett Field, but community leaders, politicians, and even the neighboring businesses the school hoped to partner with say they don’t want it there.
New York State’s Education Department OK’d the controversial Urban Dove School for the sprawling national park last week, clearing the first hurdle toward its construction — and bringing on the inevitable backlash that now includes Aviator Sports, the Floyd Bennett Field tenant that had been silent on the issue.
“[Urban Dove] has absolutely no support from the community, so we will not be able to support the project,” Aviator CEO Kevin McCabe told this paper Friday, joining a chorus of elected officials panning the plan.
In their prospectus to the state, school planners said they hoped to use Aviator’s popular facilities as part of their sports-centric curriculum.
But with the ‘no’ vote, the owners of Aviator have become the latest critics of the school, which will cater to 95 over-aged, under-credited youth. Local politicians have slammed the plan since its infancy, claiming a park is no place for a school.
“We don’t use our schools as parks and our parks as schools,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Marine Park). “Aviator is not available to them.”
State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Mill Basin) agreed.
“[Gateway] was not designed for charter schools,” he said. “It was designed as a community and family use facility.”
Despite its detractors, Urban Dove organizers say they believe Floyd Bennett Field is the perfect spot for a sports, health, and fitness-oriented alternative high school because the national park has plenty of open space and a selection of abandoned buildings they can turn into a “one-of-a-kind campus environment” that will include classrooms, a cafeteria, office space and recreational areas.
At its core will be a socialization-heavy curriculum where students aren’t part of classes, but teams that travel together from lesson to lesson and activity to activity.
Students — most of whom are expected to come from south Brooklyn — will be bussed onto the mostly unused 387-acre former airfield at the foot of Flatbush Avenue and Jamaica Bay, explained Urban Dove Executive Director Jai Nanda.
“We’re thrilled that we got the charter and now we continue to look down the road to finalizing our space and opening a great school,” Nanda said. “It’s always been our goal to open in Floyd Bennett Field and we hope that opportunity will present itself.”
If all goes according to plan, the school could open as early as next September, Nanda said.
But any plans for the school are still in its infancy: So far, Urban Dove hasn’t sent any formal requests to the National Parks Service to open in Floyd Bennett Field or use one of its buildings — many of which are dilapidated.
“When they make a formal application, we will definitely consider it,” said National Parks Service spokesman John Harlan Warren.
Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport, was added to the 26,000 acre Gateway National Recreation Area and made a national park in 1972.
Urban Dove follows the wave of charter schools crashing down on Brooklyn, which is already home to 50 of the state’s 140 public-private partnerships.