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$6.5b fund giving city schools new lease on life.

Several years ago I stood in the doorway of a classroom at George Westinghouse Vocational High School in downtown Brooklyn and surveyed what had become a no-go zone for the students and teachers. The floorboards were so rotted that it was too dangerous to walk on them, the ceiling's plasterwork was falling away in chunks, window frames were eroded beyond repair. What lay before me was the damage caused by years of deferred maintenance resulting from decades of city and state budget cuts and deficits.

Yet the dismal sight before me actually gave me cause for hope because I knew that the days of deterioration for New York City's public school system were numbered. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had just secured $13 billion in construction funding for the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) which would enable firms such as mine to start properly renovating public schools around the city and restore hope and dignity to the city's public school participants.

The 'Children First' plan introduced by Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Education Chancellor Joel I. Kline in 2002, and approved in late 2004, paved the way for a structured, well-funded program of new school construction and renovation that would be rolled out across the city for an initial five-year period. Last year, for example, saw $460 million assigned to the rehabilitation and modernization of school facilities. That money came in part from an historic agreement with Albany that secured $6.5 billion in state funding for New York City's schools

For Goshow Architects, those funds translated into designing new auditoriums at Leonard Dunkley and Nathan Hale High Schools in Brooklyn, upgrading science laboratories at John Bowne High School in Flushing, creating a new recreational playground at PS 397 in Flatbush, completely renovating the exterior of Horace Greeley Junior High in Astoria, and modernizing the interiors at Robert Bolden High School in East New York.

These current projects are among the more than 60 renovation programs that Goshow Architects has conducted over the past decade for the SCA. My firm's on-going collaboration with the authority is a continual source of pride to me, as an architect and as a New Yorker. I believe that the quality of our city's school buildings can convince young people of the importance of education. How can we expect young New Yorkers to care about going to school if the buildings in which they learn are tattered and worn?

As a beneficiary of the public school system myself, I am a firm believer in the necessity of providing everyone with access to a decent free education. Not only is public education the foundation for sustaining our democracy, it paves the way for future generations to both improve themselves and ensure this country remains a leader in the global economy. Public education is the best long-term investment any society can make, which is why I strongly applaud Mayor Bloomberg's concerted efforts to make long-lasting improvements to the city's public school infrastructure.

Planning for the future these days is not just about pumping money into the public education system. It's also about creating a more energy-efficient, sustainable environment. So, I am additionally heartened by the SCA's recent initiative to implement "Green" design guidelines into school design and the construction process.

The new directive, known as Local Law 86, requires new school construction projects to achieve LEED certification--the standard for sustainable design. This will transform New York City into the largest school district in the country to legislate a "Green" building code. Whether it's about repairing leaking roofs, replacing coal-fired boilers with new, high-performance equipment, or fitting recycled carpeting into a high school student lounge, every improvement to each public school in New York City ensures that our children can enjoy and appreciate their school days and be able to concentrate on their studies.

I salute the Bloomberg administration for its inspiring commitment to bettering education for all New Yorkers. And I'm proud of the fact that Goshow Architects is part of that commitment.

By Nancy Aber Gosuow, AIA Managing Partner Goshow Architects, LLP
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: Medical & Education Facilities
Comment:$6.5b fund giving city schools new lease on life.(SPECIAL REPORT: Medical & Education Facilities)
Author:Goshow, Nancy Aber
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 21, 2007
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