[EVG photo from Monday evening]
The three-year renovation of The Neighborhood School and PS 63 on East Third Street between Avenue A and First Avenue has reached a boiling point with parents and nearby residents.
And now the aptly named Kafka Construction, the company behind the renovations, which include asbestos removal, have been removed from the job.
Members of The Neighborhood School’s Health and Safety Committee issued a statement dated today:
After parents of The Neighborhood School (PS363) and The Star Academy (PS63) elementary schools gathered 600 signatures in just two days on a petition alleging three years of health hazards at their schools created by ongoing construction work — including rodent infestation in classrooms, homeless encampments at fire exits and drug paraphernalia and human waste at the school’s entrance — the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA), on June 13, terminated Kafka Construction’s contract. The company’s completion date over the three-year period had been postponed twice, and they showed no signs of intending to complete the work or caring about the ramifications.
The co-located elementary schools ... have been covered in scaffolding for three years, blocking all sunlight into classrooms and creating a neighborhood eyesore. Local politicians and DOE officials who toured the schools in early June were shocked by what they found. It was enough to compel the SCA to take “drastic actions,” firing Kafka and bringing in an emergency contractor to complete the work, ostensibly by the beginning of next school year.
Parents could no longer keep silent when they discovered that each morning before school started, school administration had been forced to clean hypodermic needles, vomit and feces, found on the premises, before the children’s arrival. This was a problem created by the ongoing scaffolding surrounding the building which created conditions for all kinds of undesirable behavior after school hours.
The school’s cleaning efforts didn’t prevent used syringes from being found during a daytime fire drill or by an after-school group playing in what is left of the school’s yard, which is largely covered by construction equipment.
The flower boxes in front of the school, which once housed beautiful plants, are now rat infested, as is the area behind the school where construction equipment is stored. The entire building now has a problem with vermin, and children have been known to shriek when they see a rodent scamper across the room during class.
Parents are relieved that Kafka has been fired, but remain concerned and skeptical that their kids will have a facility that is safe and an appropriate learning environment by September.
And here are some photos supplied by the parents...
[Syringes found against school wall during a fire drill]
A Kafka rep declined to comment to the Daily News.
Meanwhile, a resident who lives adjacent to the school sent along a few photos and commentary...
"We have had our lives turned upside down by this nightmare. It's been going on for over three years now and every year we're told the same thing. It will be done in August," the resident said. "We've called Kafka numerous times to complain. One particular instance...Kafka told us the project was delayed because they had to order a special kind of terracotta and it was only made by one company in California! They also told us to think of what a beautiful building it's going to be once it is completed. I'm sure the terracotta cost more than the teachers got in raises in the past 10 years or so.
"They could have build three new schools in the time it's taken them to renovate this one."
In early May, the artist JR and his Inside Out Project visited the school. The portraits of the students from Inside Out were then used to liven up the plywood on East Third Street...
The Kafka workers recently tore down the photos and tossed them in the dumpster. [Updated: The school had to remove the posters. The Department of Sanitation was going to levy fines for every poster, according to a parent. "Obviously frustrating but for an entirely different reason," per a parent.]
Per the resident: "You can name the post 'Dumpster full of children's tattered dreams of this project ever getting completed.'"
According to the Daily News, Department of Education officials are looking to secure a new construction company to finish the job. Officials are banning the Queens-based Kafka from taking new jobs with the city School Construction Authority for at least two years.