Judge tosses motion to stop school for at-risk teens from opening in Midwood

The East Midwood Jewish Center.

A judge dismissed a request for a temporary restraining order filed by two Midwood residents that sought to kick a charter school out of the East Midwood Jewish Center. 

Kings County Supreme Court Justice Wavny Toussaint threw out the request on Sept. 17, paving the way for the school to continue in-person classes without fear of eviction — and lifting a heavy burden off the school’s shoulders as it starts up its school year.

“We are very relieved to have this distraction behind us and grateful to the court for their ruling,” said Jai Nanda, the director of Urban Dove Charter School. 

Had the request been granted, the school would have been forced to vacate the Midwood property and switch to an all-remote schedule, something administrators said would have been “catastrophic.”

The court petition for a temporary restraining order was the latest chapter in the controversy surrounding the move of the school, which serves 300 students who have failed the ninth grade and are at risk of dropping out, most of whom are Black, to Midwood.

Opponents of the school have charged that the at-risk nature of the students will lead to trouble on the quiet neighborhood streets they will travel down to get to school, and that the property should instead be occupied by a Jewish school, some of which in the neighborhood are overcrowded. The space was previously occupied by two Jewish day schools, who stopped paying their rent. 

Opponents have hurled vitriol towards representatives of the school during heated public meetings and in letters and emails to the Jewish center, with concerns about prospective students’ heights intimidating local children, and Urban Dove students harrassing nearby yeshiva students.

Some emails and speakers at public meetings have referred to the Urban Dove students as “urban kids who know how to fight” that will bring “guns, violence, and sexual activity” to the neighborhood and that “the gangs are going to come.

Others have charged that the Urban Dove school, which has a location in Bedford Stuyvesant, is “infested” with violence akin to “being in Vietnam” and a “cancer in the community” and that the Urban Dove students, as “at risk teens from outside our community” cannot be trusted to get along with their neighbors, court filings by Urban Dove’s lawyers allege. 

While the request for a temporary restraining order was thrown out, the school remains in court fighting the lawsuit filed by Midwood residents Ellen Levitt and Laurie Mermelstein.