Permission to drop anchor: City in talks to take Hook lot for new maritime middle school

Permission to drop anchor: City in talks to take Hook lot for new maritime middle school
Photo by Jason Speakman

This marine academy is ready to dock!

A long-awaited, specialized maritime middle school could be sailing into in Red Hook, according to a rep for a local pol who has pushed to anchor it in his district. Officials previously said they were eyeing several neighborhoods, including Sunset Park, as possible locations for the learning house that will feed into the New York Harbor School high school on Governor’s Island, but have zeroed in on a Hook parcel, the rep said.

“There is a high probability that the harbor school will locate there,” said David Estrada, a spokesman for Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook). “Councilman Menchaca is confident the school will come to Red Hook at that property.”

Estrada confirmed that Department of Education officials are negotiating a deal to buy a property on Delavan Street bounded by Richards and Verona streets, where they want to erect a 640-seat school, following Menchaca’s announcement that the president of the agency’s School Construction Authority — which oversees building new facilities — was in talks to acquire the lot.

The site, which is currently occupied by a manufacturer, makes an ideal home port because of its proximity to nearby Atlantic Basin, where kids would be able to take advantage of the aquatic facilities, the pol said.

But the property’s owner is playing hardball and doesn’t want to sell it, possibly requiring city officials to use eminent domain to seize the site, the School Construction Authority president said at a public meeting about the learning house.

One Red Hook resident offered to rent his lot on the Gowanus Canal to the city for the middle school, and said he knows several more neighborhood property-owners who would willingly offer their land to house it, making him question why the city would take such a drastic measure to secure the Delavan-Street parcel.

“It was upsetting for me to hear because I know there are available sites,” said John Quadrozzi Jr., who owns Gowanus Bay Terminal at the foot of Columbia Street. “Until it’s clear there aren’t any other locations, I don’t think eminent domain should be used.”

An education department spokesman claimed the agency has not settled on a location and is still exploring options, despite the construction-authority president’s announcement.

Students who attend the academy, wherever it opens, will undertake a maritime-heavy curriculum designed to prepare them for various marine-related industries.

And Menchaca said the coastal neighborhood’s nautical past, proximity to water, and dearth of schools make it the right spot to drop anchor.

“Red Hook’s rich maritime history, access to the harbor, and need for public schools make it an ideal location for the New York Harbor School,” he said.

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