Monthly Archives: February 2010

Charter Schools part 1: Opportunity or Obstacle?

If someone offered you venture capital to launch a new enterprise, avoid most bricks-and-mortar start-up costs (and get government grants to pay what’s left), compensate yourself well and hire young, enthusiastic non-unionized employees, could you pass up the opportunity? Before you answer, consider that you’d also be able to hone your leadership skills, rely on a guaranteed flow of public funding and full liability coverage, continue to augment this with private gifts, and expect customers to line up at your door.

This is the scenario that has lured the thousands of entrepreneurs who,  seeking a more meaningful experience than Wall Street can offer, have started charter schools across the United States.

In business terms, it’s the quintessential American capitalist paradigm: Use government policy to help you grow, and lobby to change that policy if it’s too restrictive. Attract venture capital, market your service, build your customer base, keep your operating costs low and eliminate any local competition before those costs escalate. If you see expenses rising, move on to another opportunity. Continue reading

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Charter Schools: Melting Pot or Crucible?

Photo: hawthornestreet.com

Charter schools have become a crucible for New York’s gentrification battles. The latest episode in this war is described in an excellent neighborhood blog called Hawthorne Street. Earlier this week, at P.S. 92 on Parkside Avenue in Brooklyn’s Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a couple of dozen predominantly white supporters of the Lefferts Gardens Charter School squared off verbally against mostly-Black P.S. 92 loyalists who were outraged at the Department of Education’s plan to give some of their school’s space to the new charter school. (Full disclosure: P.S. 92 is our editor’s alma mater.)

One prospective charter parent who attended the meeting, Vernalisa Joseph, called the scene “extremely emotional.” She said the conflict between the two groups of adults was witnessed by their impressionable children, who had been brought along for lack of child care.  “It was very sad. They weren’t always just thinking about the kids.” Continue reading

A Chart of NYC Charters Past

With the announcement of a 2010 charter commission coming (likely) any day now, it’s a useful reminder to see what’s come, or not come, from the city’s last few charter revision commissions. To that end, Gotham Gazette released today a very readable chart of the six charter revision commission proposals since the major revision in 1989.

Starting in 1998 under Giuliani, the chart provides: the sitting mayor, the dates each commission was created and expired, the name of the chair and number of commissioners, the ballot proposals and the voting result (adopted/rejected, %).

Not a comprehensive charter history education, for sure, but a handy resource.

What Did You Pay for Your Last Rental?

Just a brief note about City Hall’s announcement last week of its deal with Central Amusement International to develop 6.16 acres of land in Coney Island for two new amusement parks to be called “Luna Park at Coney Island” and the “Scream Zone.” Annual rent will be $100,000 for the first 10 years, with the city also expecting to receive “additional revenue derived from gross receipts from the amusement park.”

NYC’s Economic Development Corporation purchased this land in November, 2009 as part of a 6.9-acre, $95.6 million deal with Thor Equities—that’s $85.3 million prorated to the 6.16 acres being used for the parks.

Let’s do some math here: 43,560 square feet to an acre, times 6.16… about 270,000 square feet for the parks. $100,000 a year in rent divided by the square footage? That’s 37¢ per square foot, per year, the city’s charging CAI.

We’re all for Coney Island’s revitalization, and we’re firm believers in the importance of keeping NYC a world-class tourist destination, but we’d hope that City Hall could have cut a better deal for taxpayers than this one seems to be.

Comments from City Hall?

Charter Commission to be Named

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long-awaited New York City Charter Revision Commission is expected to be named on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. According to a highly-placed source, the commission will be chaired by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

Goldstein, a graduate of City College and former president of Baruch College, Adelphi University, and the Research Foundation of CUNY, was first mentioned as the leading 2010 charter chair candidate by Adam Lisberg, Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief, on February 9. Lisberg’s story cited some insiders’ concerns about Goldstein’s ability to remain free of Mayor Bloomberg’s control, while other sources dismissed this, predicting Goldstein’s independence.

As we’ve said before, a lot depends on who heads the commission’s staff as executive director. More to come after the mayor’s announcement.

RIP, ACORN

ACORN folds countrywide, reports Queens Crap. Our own experience with ACORN began with its indictment of our local elementary school many years ago in a widely-publicized report called Secret Apartheid II. ACORN accused the extremely diverse Flatbush public school of giving a warmer welcome to prospective parents who were white, while keeping an African-American “parent” tester waiting a long time. But we knew the individuals involved, we knew the actual sequence of events, and we knew that ACORN’s report had been completely fabricated. In the Saul Alinsky community organizing tradition, ACORN had concluded that the ends, fair treatment of minority parents, justified the means, making up the facts. Continue reading

In Staten Island, Hope Stays Alive

Tom Wrobleski reports on Staten Island’s push for full representation on Mayor Bloomberg’s anticipated 2010 charter revision commission.  Wrobleski’s piece in the Advance features leaders who focus on whether Staten Island will get enough seats on the commission to ensure that it will “look at shifting some decision-making away from City Hall and giving the borough more local control, especially over land-use and traffic issues.” Continue reading