De Blasio Gets Big PS 150 Thank You for Helping Keep School in Tribeca

At a ceremony attended by the entire PS 150 student body, PTA co-president Anshal Pruohit presents Mayor Bill de Blasio with a thank you card signed by the school community. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Dec. 17, 2018

“This is our heartfelt thank you for saving our school!” PS 150 PTA co-president Anshal Prurohit said as she presented Mayor Bill de Blasio with a giant card of gratitude signed by the school’s students, staff and parents. At that, cheers rang out from an audience of nearly 200 children—the entire student body—seated on the steps on Greenwich Street that lead to their tiny school in Independence Plaza.

De Blasio was on hand Monday to accept the school’s appreciation for interceding with PS 150's (and Independence Plaza’s) landlord, Vornado Realty Trust and its high-powered CEO, Steve Roth, to stop the school’s announced eviction after this academic year.

Before the agreement was reached earlier this month, the Department of Education had planned for the one-class-per-grade school to “co-locate” on a floor of the Peck Slip School, a mile away in the Seaport. They would remain there for four years, until a new school building is completed on Trinity Place, at Edgar Street.

De Blasio recalled calling Roth, who he knew was a graduate of the city’s public schools, “and I talked to him about what it meant for the kids and the parents of this generation to be able to stay in this school until the new one was ready."

“And I want to give him credit,” de Blasio continued. “He said, ‘I need to get the facts, but I understand how important it is.’ And he called back a week later and he said, ‘We’re going to get this done. We’re going to make sure that these parents and these kids get to stay in this school.’”

De Blasio also credited Daniel Stark, a Tribeca resident, for first alerting him to the school’s pending eviction when the two, who did not know each other, happened to be on Greenwich Street one afternoon in October. “[He] walked up to me and he said, ‘You need to know about this.’ And I only had heard about it very broadly, I hadn’t heard the details, and he gave me a sense of how urgent it was and how immediate it was. And I had a meeting with Chancellor [Richard] Carranza only a few days later and I said, ‘We’ve got to figure this out, there’s got to be a way to save this school.’”

As it happens, Stark, who has lived across the street from the school for 26 years, had only three hours earlier met Lisa Midyette, one of the parent activists, outside the just-closed Best Market, nearby in Independence Plaza. While bemoaning the shuttering of the store, Midyette mentioned PS 150’s pending eviction.

“It’s bad enough that Best Market closed and left a lot of people with very few affordable options. And then she told me about PS 150 and I was like, that’s crazy,” said Stark, who was traveling on Monday and spoke by phone.

It was fortuitous that soon after speaking to Midyette, Stark saw the mayor on Greenwich Street. “[The mayor] was with a little group of people and was gracious to take a few minutes,” Stark recalled. “I told him that PS 150 was being forced out and we don’t want to lose schools from our neighborhood. And he said it’s good timing because I’m going to see the chancellor this afternoon or tomorrow.”

School advocates, who learned about the eviction plans in early October, had little time to try to convince the owners to change their minds, something the city’s School Construction Authority had failed to do during months of negotiations. The Panel for Education Policy (P.E.P.), which approves co-location plans, had been scheduled to vote on the move on Dec. 18. But in a surprise announcement at the P.E.P.’s November meeting, Carranza announced that the vote would be delayed.

At the victory ceremony there was plenty of other credit to go around. Lisa Midyette was part of a core group of energetic parents that included Anshal Prurohit, Jonah Benton, and her husband Buxton Midyette. Together, they kept their campaign in front of the larger community and their elected officials and Community Board 1, who all supported the cause. (At the event, those electeds were on hand: Councilwoman Margaret Chin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler.)

“So, to everyone—an extraordinary effort that got us somewhere and a good example of the fact that when there’s accountability, it makes a difference,” de Blasio said. “There is accountability for our public schools. It runs from the principal, up to the Chancellor, and right to me.”