Making a Khalil-ing: City may sell Boerum Hill Arabic-language schoolhouse to developer

Cashing in: The city is looking for firms interested in redeveloping Khalil Gibran International Academy on Schermerhorn Street in pricey Boerum Hill.
Community News Group / Lauren Gill

The city is looking to unload a controversial public Arabic-language public school in Boerum Hill to a developer — just as a real-estate company is reportedly buying up all neighboring lots for a new tower.

The Department of Education put out a call to property moguls interested in the getting their hands on the schoolhouse at Schermerhorn Street and Third Avenue that currently houses Khalil Gibran International Academy high school — whose founding principal famously resigned before the school had even opened amidst a media frenzy and accusations she sympathized with militant Islam — according to an agency rep.

“We released a request for expressions of interest to the development community and are exploring options, but have not committed to anything,” said spokeswoman Toya Holness.

The offer came around the same time condo-constructor Alloy Development was said to have been securing other properties on the block for what local leaders in-the-know say will likely be a new tower, though Holness refused to say if the two were related.

Community Education Council 15 president Anila Rosario said on Thursday that she hadn’t heard anything about it, though noted the director of the Educational Construction Fund had sent her a notice earlier that day — right after this paper started making enquiries — that it had issued a callout for a “developer-funded mixed-use space” in the “Downtown area.”

The fund is a development arm of the education department that allows property tycoons to raze aging schoolhouses for luxury towers so long as they include some learning space inside — like one 59-story Manhattan condo building that houses two schools and a Whole Foods Market.

The city isn’t closing Khalil Gibran, Holness said, but she wouldn’t say if the city was planning on moving it for any construction.

The dual-language school has relocated at least three times since it opened as a grades 6–12 facility in 2007, amidst complaints from parents at co-located schools as well as conservative bloggers who denounced the academy as a “madrassa” and “jihad school” that would turn pupils into terrorists.

In the school’s most famous chapter, the education department pushed founding principal Debbie Almontaser to resign after she refused to condemn a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC” being sold by a group she was affiliated with — though a federal panel later found the city had discriminated against her.

The department closed the academy’s middle school in 2011 due to plummeting enrollments and test scores, keeping only the high school, which now boasts 267 pupils and an International Baccalaureate program, and has been the source of little fuss in recent years.

The building itself dates back to 1840, when it was built as the Brooklyn Boys’ Boarding School. It was later used as an infirmary in the Civil War, then became PS 15, and then the Goldman Sachs-sponsored Corporate Academy High School, which went under in 2012.

Khalil Gibran did not return a request for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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