Though some people may try to convince us otherwise, the truth is that politics matters. Elections matter.
The most recent and glaring example of this in New York City today is Mayor DeBlasio’s fight against the charter schools. All throughout his campaign last year and indeed, over most of his political career he has stated his opposition to charter schools. The Mayor has stressed again and again, that he will stop cohabitation within existing public city schools or charge charters rent just to stay in public school buildings.
This is not the politics of people. It is the politics of ideology.
If a program fits within a given politician’s dogma, no matter how poorly said program performs, they will keep it running. However, on the flip side, that same politician will shut a good program down even if it is working, simply because it doesn’t fit his/her ideology. Often, it doesn’t even matter if they are progressive or conservative. With these elected officials, it is their way or the highway.
This is not what the Founders of our great country intended.
What has happened to compromise?
Better yet, what has become of the idea that a government should focus on practical solutions over ideological ones; on people over special interest agendas?
In this spirit, I am proposing a compromise that provides a pragmatic solution to a conflict that has been brewing here in Manhattan for some time. What I am referring to is the pending plan for the 91st Street waste transfer station on the Upper East Side.
It is by now a well-identified problem that our K through 12 city school system here in New York is in desperate need of classrooms. I submit that we should instead build a 4000 to 5000 seat state-of-the-art high school on the site of the proposed 91st Street waste transfer station.
Although trash collection and disposal is an important issue in our city, in Manhattan we have extremely limited room to build. That is why a high school would be a much more practical and beneficial idea for our city and our children. The seven Upper East Side high schools totaling 3200 students could be combined into this new school. The old school buildings could then be converted into elementary, kindergarten and pre-K classrooms. We should also consider moving the Robert F. Wagner Junior High School due to the fact that the current building in such disrepair.
The added bonus to this plan is that a good chunk of the capital funding already exists. For one, some of the $200 million your administration defunded from charter school construction could be used to build this new state-of-the-art high school. Private funds could also be raised from corporations and education foundations. Lastly, funds could even be raised from current residents of the Upper East Side who would likely be more than happy to support such a constructive solution.
In short, the money to build this new high school is well within reach.
So, Mayor DeBlasio I am reaching out to you with this compromise that would not only benefit those on the Upper East Side but would also substantially help you in your laudable goal to expand pre-K and after school programs. This is a win-win for both sides and most importantly for New York City’s school children. I think both of us will agree that a school is more essential to our children’s future then a waste transfer station.
Mayor DeBlasio, be the leader that the city hoped you would be and embrace this practical solution.
Michael K Zumbluskas
State Executive Committee Member of the Independence Party of New York and resident of the Upper East Side of Manhattan