Backed By 100+ Police Officers, Mayor Forces South Williamsburg Vote

The controversial agenda item for the March 1st PEP meeting was the co-location of a Success Academy at IS 50 in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The co-location is opposed by the Southside Community Schools Coalition, a broad coalition of community based organizations, churches, schools and politicians in the community. As I made my way to Fort Greene Park for the SCSC press conference from inside Brooklyn Tech High School I counted 85 police officers. Many wore uniforms or insignia indicating their special branches - task forces, riot police, community affairs, even two park rangers who kept watch from a hill in the park. If we include the reserve squad positioned in the Brooklyn Tech gym and the uncounted plain clothes officers, there were well over 100 police officers on hand to ensure the mayoral bloc of PEP members carried out their voting in support of the administration.

NY1 covered the press conference and subsequent vote here. Two things are missing from the news accounts which portray the controversy as charter proponents vs. opponents. First, the accounts don't address the lopsided nature of the opinion. Testimony at two public hearings ran overwhelmingly against the co-location. Only two speakers in favor of the proposal indicated they were actually from the neighborhood while many in favor were bused in from other Success schools around the city.

Second, the opposition is based not on dislike of charter schools but of how the community was systematically disenfranchised and excluded from any decision making. The groups and individuals comprising the coalition have, over decades, worked to transform Williamsburg from one of the city's most troubled neighborhoods. But rather than partner with the proven community leadership, the Bloomberg DOE instead turns over public school buildings to an organization headed by hedge fund men with no ties to the community. Success even targeted its advertising to the more affluent families in North Williamsburg and did no outreach in Spanish, the first language of many of the residents.

The coalition has filed a lawsuit based on the failure of Success and its SUNY sponsor to demonstrate the community support required by the State Education Law.Link
Video of Luis Garden Acosta and Council Member Diana Reyna here.
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