Allowing a Carroll Gardens private school to expand into its courtyard would set a dangerous precedent and should be thwarted, a local lawmaker implored this week.
In a letter dispatched by State Senator Daniel Squadron to local residents, the freshman lawmaker makes clear that allowing the Hannah Senesh Community Day School to undo a law that safeguards the courtyards — considered the signature characteristic of the brownstone neighborhood — would be a grave mistake.
“The protections for Carroll Gardens’ front courtyards, passed through the New York City Council nearly 160 years ago, and held to ever since, should not be modified now; making an exception to the protections would set too dangerous a precedent,” Squadron said.
“I want to let you know that, after careful consideration, I do not believe that Hannah Senesh should be permitted to expand by building in its front courtyard,” he continued, adding his commitment to working with a school on a plan “more appropriate for the unique character of Carroll Gardens.”
Squadron’s statement represents the first unequivocal opposition by a local elected official since the project first came to light at the end of last year.
Amy Glosser, vice president of the school’s board of directors, said she had no comment about Squadron’s letter. She said nothing is new with the plan, which remains in a holding pattern.
In December, then City Councilmember Bill de Blasio, now the public advocate, was expected to introduce a bill that would amend the city’s administrative code to allow the school, located at 342 Smith Street, to expand onto its own courtyard .
At the time, de Blasio insisted that the proposal to explore expanding a school would not impact homeowners’ courtyards. Since the school uses the space as a parking lot, he reasoned, expanding into a“paved parking lot” does not undermine the “significant gains” made over the past several years “in protecting our neighborhood.”
After community outcry,the code amendment was withdrawn, with the nudging of de Blasio’s successor, City Councilmember Brad Lander. The entire proposal, if its ever introduced, will be subject to an extensive public review.
In a letter to residents, Lander saidas part of the negotiations to secure the withdrawal, he promised to at least consider the school’s proposal.
“It would therefore be going back on my word — and on the deal under which the legislation was withdrawn — to preemptively issue a statement, before even listening to what they are proposing,” he said. The hope, he added, is that the school has heard the hew and cry, and that a reasonable solution can be achieved.