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DOE combating overcrowding in Manhattan; rally today in West Village

In an attempt to take the wind out of the sails of the anti-overcrowding movement in Manhattan’s District 2, the city yesterday formally asked the state for permission to use a state-owned building in the West Village as a public school, rather than selling it off to the highest bidder as the state and city had planned.

For months, District 2 parents and community activists have been lobbying the state to allow a building at 75 Morton St. to become a middle school. Even though it looks like they will get the outcome they’ve been seeking, they aren’t planning to cancel today’s rally in front of the building, which fliers have advertised around the neighborhood since last week. Instead, community members will use the opportunity to “keep the pressure on,” and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office tells me she’s still planning to be at the 5:30 p.m. event.

Yesterday’s announcement by the city marked the second time in recent months that District 2 community members have extracted promises of new schools from the DOE; in May, after a series of boisterous public meetings, the DOE committed to opening a new elementary school in Greenwich Village. And in today’s Sun, Elizabeth Green reports that the DOE has put together a figurative “war room” to combat overcrowding in District 2 — hoping, perhaps, to preempt public events where anti-DOE sentiment is frequently aired.

In response to the “war room” announcement, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum released a letter and asking him to “use the ‘war room’ approach to develop solutions to overcrowding in primary and secondary schools throughout the city.” According to a recent report from Comptroller William Thompson’s office, rapid residential construction is stressing school capacities in neighborhoods across the city.

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