West New York officials revealed their plans for a new middle school at a vacant lot on 65th Street and Broadway yesterday at a press conference where Albio Sires and his team backed the “Your Children’s Future” board of education slate.
“As mayor of this wonderful community, it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to make this announcement, not only in front of you, but the people that are behind me that have been working towards these goals, these projects and the people that are also behind me that are going to continue working on these projects,” began Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez.
“Because as well all know, West New York deserves it, and as it pertains to this site, West New York’s children deserve it.”
Back in September, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority announced the approval of 16 new schools throughout the state, including one in West New York.
At the time, it was listed as a pre-k through 8th grade facility, though local officials said yesterday that it would be a new middle school.
“Our middle school is overcrowded, it was built back, years ago, and it was supposed to host 785 students maximum. Right now, we have 1,100 students sitting in our middle school with only a configuration of grades 7 and 8, when it should be grades 6,7, and 8,” explained Superintendent of Schools Clara Brito Herrera.
“We will be able to meet that goal once we open our new middle school because this is what we’re going to be building here: a new middle school for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, state of the art, where they don’t have to go to the state to have instrumental music class.”
Albio Sires, a former mayor seeking his old office again in the May 9th non-partisan elections, said that during his three terms in municipal office they opened the doors of six schools.
He said that the subsequent administration, which was under Mayor Sal Vega, allocated the funding for the middle school elsewhere and therefore the lot has just sat vacant, since it cannot be anything other than a school.
“We have a wonderful concept: we have a middle school on 57th Street, which is going to serve the students from 60th to 49th [Streets] and we’re gonna have a middle school here that’s going to serve the students from 60th to 67th Street. That means that the students here don’t have to walk all the way over to 67th Street,” Sires, also a former congressman and assembly speaker, added.
About an hour before the presser began, his opponent. Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo said he’d like to see the site utilized for a recreation center.
“A new recreation center would bring new life to the Town of West New York. Having grown up going to the Recreation Center that previously existed, I understand the important role it plays within our community,” he said in a statement.
“Through our comprehensive plan, we will work with the State to acquire this property, and turn it into a place that our residents can go to to enhance their lives. My West New York Forward Team has a vision for our already great town that will bring it to new heights. We will never see an available property like this again in town and this is a golden opportunity to build a beautiful multilevel structure with plenty of parking for the community included.”
Board of Education President Adam Parkinson, also running for commissioner on the Sires slate, noted that the state-owned land has already been designated as a school, “despite what others may believe.”
He also endorsed the “Your Children’s Future” slate of Trustees Sandra Pfeil and Aylen Jover, who are join by Police Lt. Henry Codina and Stephanie Gonzalez.
During a Q and A session with the media, Herrera reiterated that the school would come at zero expense to the taxpayer, though declined to speculate on the costs or a timeline.
However, the Sires team said in a statement this morning that the state has allocated $65 million for the project.
When asked directly, she also said that a recreation center was not at all feasible for this site, which Sires agreed with.
He also indicated that he was open to opening a rec center in town and when asked about a location, he indicated he was focused on getting the middle school project – which should accomodate between 650-700 students – off the ground first.
The press conference streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed here.