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Eva Moskowitz vs. Cobble Hill

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 12/22/2011, 2:45 p.m.

It looks like controversial charter school operator Eva Moskowitz is moving into one of the more posh New York City neighborhoods, with the aid of the New York City Board of Education.

Last week, the Panel for Education Policy gave Moskowitz the green light to take space inside a Cobble Hill high school for a new charter school under her Success Charter Network, much to the chagrin of educational activists, parents and teachers.

As per her usual modus operandi, Moskowitz will not have to pay any rent for the space, which will focus on students from kindergarten through fourth grade inside what's now the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, the School for International Studies and the STAR school. The latter focuses on special education for kids with disabilities.

While parents and teachers of the students already inhabiting the building say this will lead to the overcrowding of their schools, the city said the charter has 691 open seats. They say that is enough to help the charter school and not hurt the other schools already in the building.

The city also claims this school should help the neighborhood cope with an increase in the children's population, as Cobble Hill is considered one of Brooklyn's "hot" gentrifying neighborhoods, with many upper-middle-class families looking for "highly regarded" schools.

While the school will be built in Brooklyn, the actual meeting discussing the school before the vote took place was held at Newton High School in Corona, Queens, where the community was allowed to voice their grievances with the Cobble Hill charter school. Some educational activists believe that the hearing was held in Queens on purpose to try to prevent members of the Cobble Hill community from voicing their opinion. However, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew made sure that wasn't the case. Mulgrew and the UFT chartered four buses to help parents get to the PEP meeting in Queens to make sure their opinions were heard and amplified.

"The DOE moved the PEP meeting to a site that's inconvenient for many parents to get to," said Mulgrew. "The school community asked us for help, and we have been glad to make it possible for more people's voices to be heard."

Before the vote took place last week, Cobble Hill resident Melinda Martinez, who has four daughters attending the schools already in the building, wrote a piece for the New York Daily News discussing why she thought the charter school was a bad idea.

"Despite having what we consider excellent public schools-and a successful community-based approach to educating our young people-we are fending off an unwanted charter school in Cobble Hill. So far, our concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears," Martinez wrote. "In this community, we are proud to have very strong public schools that perform well, mostly aren't overcrowded and do a better job than most other city schools of teaching Black and Latino students on a level that's closer to their white peers."

Their voices were heard, but the city didn't listen. Moskowitz wins again.