Monday, May 14, 2007

"Field of Schemes" and "Pay to Play": Bloomberg's Plan for Randall's Island Ball Fields

The story of the widely criticized Bloomberg plan to partition playing fields on Randall's Island has seen new media coverage lately. A well-researched article in Time Out New York Kids explains how an elite group of 20 private schools will be granted exclusive access to 2/3 of the the 65 new and refurbished fields during the best playing hours, while all our public schools will have to split the rest. Click here for the article entitled "Field of Schemes".

In return for the twenty years of exclusive access during afterschool hours, the 20 schools will pay a combined $2.6 million per year. In the recent public radio story "You Got to Pay to Play, Kids", East Harlem community activist Marina Ortiz questions why public schools were excluded from the exclusive cartel invited to bid for the rights to permits.

The authorization for the City to suspend competitive bidding and negotiate directly with their handpicked list of schools was granted through the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC), which is packed with mayoral appointees. In the final committee vote, only Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer opposed the plan, which he termed a "raw deal".

Several community and parent groups questioned the legality of the deal, and pointed out that the city had improperly evaded the community review process known as ULURP. Check out the Class Size Matters letter to the Mayor, outlining this and other objections here. The actual text of the FCRC reso is here.

Update: see this May 25 column by Juan Gonzalez, showing how the cost for this project has climbed to $130 million, with the private schools paying for only a small fraction of the cost.

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