Buddy, can you give this class a home?

9th March 2001 at 00:00

NEWYORK is proposing a novel solution to its shortage of city sites for schools.

It is hoping to persuade developers to incorporate schools into new offices or apartment buildings, or to build new offices above existing schools. In exchange, they will be given tax breaks and other concessions.

Developers are showing interest in the idea, drawn in no small part by the $150 million (pound;102m) that has been set aside for the private construction of new schools.

Among the companies that have expressed support is one of the city's largest residential developers, Rockrose Corporation.

"This could be another vehicle to get new schools and classrooms, and potentially faster than we could otherwise build them," said city schools chancellor Harold Levy.

The city's school system plans to spend $7 billion (pound;4.8bn) ove the next five years on new construction, but it is having trouble finding any suitable sites.

Already, 12 planned schools with room for more than 5,000 students have been delayed for lack of land, at a time when some existing schools are as much as 60 per cent above capacity.

The major problem is the rising cost of property. But under the new plan, tax advantages would be offered to developers who agree to set aside the lower floors of new buildings for schools.

In a variation on this theme, the city would sell private developers the right to build above existing schools, which they would then improve and expand.

One of each model already exists in New York: a middle school which occupies the lower floors of a 151-unit apartment building, and a public high school on the lower floors of a government-owned building.

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