Vallone, Berman Blast Delays In School Construction
City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, Finance, Committee Chair and Canarsie representative Herbert E. Berman and Education Committee Chair Priscilla A. Wooten recently denounced the Board of Education and the School Construction Authority over continued delays and proposed budget overruns in school construction.
"I can think of no more pressing issue facing New York City than school construction. We have schools that are so overcrowded that closets and bathrooms have been converted into classrooms," said Speaker Vallone. "New York City is short 69,000 seats in our schools -69,000 seats... more than all of the students in Albany, Rochester, Syracuse combined. Yet in response to this crisis, the Board of Education says it will delay new school construction as part of a plan to deal with a growing shortfall in their budget," said Vallone. "The solution, they say, is to cut more than $1.5 billion dollars that is now earmarked for school construction. That is not a solution - that is a farce," said Vallone.
"The Board of Education reported that it might delay new school construction as part of a plan to deal with a growing shortfall in their budget. The Board claims that the projects underway are coming in over their original cost estimates and may cost up to $1.9 billion dollars more. It was reported that their solution is to cut more than $1.5 billion dollars that is now earmarked for school construction. The Board of Education says that they will draw nearly half of the savings from Queens, eliminating the planned construction of six schools in Queens.
"Faster than you can say ‘dubious,’ the Finance Committee will conduct a full investigation into one of the most outlandish cost-overruns I’ve ever heard of," said Berman. "As a taxpayer, I’m outraged. As a parent and grandparent, I’m saddened. As Finance Chair, I’m infuriated that critical education projects might, again, be compromised by the Board’s poor planning. I hope this investigation brings us one step closer toward enforcing a modicum of accountability within the Board, he said.
"We are pleased to announce that the City Council will hold a hearing on July 10 at PS 19 in School District 24," said Vallone. "We need to know whether the Board of Education deliberately underestimated the cost of their proposed school construction projects so that the City would approve their plans in the first place. We need to know when the Board of Education and the Schools Construction Authority realized that there would be a shortfall in funds for these vital projects. We need to know why the Board of Education and the Schools Construction Authority did not raise these issues at the City Council Budget hearings.
"Most importantly, we must now work together to identify how we can fix this situation and fix it fast," said Vallone.