New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part II: Proximity

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — This article is Part 2 of 8 in a series on the June 23rd meeting of the New Rochelle Board of Education where administrators and board members discussed a plan to move the Alternative High School from St. Gabes High School to the Family Life Center at Bethesda Baptist Church. There were four subsequent board meetings – two in executive session and two in public session. This series is focused on what took place on June 23rd, an attempt to deceive the board and the public by cherry-picking or withholding information in order to “sell” Bethesda to a skeptical school board.

Throughout the June 23rd board meeting, a great deal was made of Bethesda’s “proximity to the high school”. This point was stressed over and over again especially by Marrero who invoked the term “Gold Ticket” without explaining what he meant. He later added, “if there is an emergency, the proximity to the high school is our buffer”. How or why the high school would be a “buffer” against an emergency — he mentioned coronavirus — was left to the listener’s imagination. For those familiar with the City of New Rochelle, the fuss over “proximity” is difficult to fathom.

The distance between St. Gabe’s and Bethesda is only about 5 blocks. Neither is close enough to the high school to make walking during the school day a viable option so drive-time is the only useful metric. According to Google Maps, the distance between St. Gabe’s and New Rochelle High School is about 1.4 miles – a distance that can be covered in 29 minutes by walking and 8 minutes by driving. The distance between Bethesda and New Rochelle High School is about 1.0 miles – a distance that can be covered in 24 minutes by walking and 5 minutes by driving.

Neither 5 minutes nor 8 minutes is a short enough time for students to move from a class at the Campus School to the High School in the 4 minutes allotted between classes.

After initially pushing the idea of the “short” walk from Bethesda to the high school to get back and forth to classes, Marrero, Thurnau, Feijóo and Moselhi dropped that idea and instead talked about buying a van to drive students back and forth.

Marrero, Thurnau, Feijóo and Moselhi seemed oblivious to the fact that after over a million dollars was spent by the District on Holy Family School to house Webster School for four months after a ceiling collapsed in 2015, the newly renovated site was rejected as a new home for the Campus School due its proximity to the high school. Then-Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne and then-Principal Reggie Richardson expressed concern that Campus students would go back and forth between the two schools, creating problems and defeating the purpose of the alternative school setting.

There is no evidence that Campus students were denied opportunities to participate in classes or activities at New Rochelle High School.

Schwach said Campus students already take classes at the night school and during summer school and they participate in athletics, extra-curricular activities and programs like PAVE. Marrero said campus students are involved in a myriad of extra-curricular activities, athletics, and PAVE. The proximity issue appears to be a case of a solution looking for a problem.

For reasons that remain a mystery, Marrero made repeated references to locating the Campus School at Bethesda because it would be closer to what he described as a “palace” with “golden doors”. Marrero dismissed concerns about Bethesda, portraying it as a mere way-station on the path towards the ultimate destination of the Campus School – New Rochelle City Hall.

“In potentially two, three, four years down the road, depending on how quickly we can move folks out, also redesign, City Hall will welcome and even morph into what it can become,” said Marrero. “We are going to potentially have a palace for a home two three years from now.”

Feijoo reiterated some of these points.

They are delusional.

City Manager Charles B. Strome, who is also a member of the District-Wide Healthy and Safety Committee, has told the committee there are no immediate plans to move the City government out of its current location but under the most optimistic scenario it would be no sooner than 2024 but admitted even that may be too optimistic. Any move depends on a complex land deal that involves eminent domain, lawsuits and a requirement to keep Firehouse #1 fully operational throughout the development project while the Firehouse moves a few blocks away.

MacQuesten Development of Pelham won the right to the 45 Harrison project in 2017 with plans to get started in 2018. The plan is for the City to first acquire the site of the old Post Marine Supply store at 65 River Street, a 1.5-acre site across from the Toyota dealership and Radisson Hotel near downtown, then leave it to MacQuesten to tear down the building and replace it with a brand new firehouse. Once that work is completed, Firehouse #1 would relocate to the new site. Both the old firehouse and neighboring commercial property at 150 Huguenot Street would be torn down and replaced by a a 27-story mixed use development with 238 residential units; 50,000 square feet of office space; 7,000 square feet of retail space; and, 238 parking spaces at 45 Harrison Street. Once the building is complete, the City government would relocate from 515 North Avenue to 45 Harrison Street.

The only problem is that not a teaspoon of earth has been moved at either location and the City’s attempt to take the 65 River Street property through eminent domain has been tied up in litigation for three years.

As reported by Westfair Communications, on March 11, the Second Appellate Division ruled that the City could take 65 River Street by eminent domain. The property owner may challenge the decision in the Court of Appeals or allow New Rochelle to take the property. Until that case is resolved, City Hall is not even remotely close to moving out its current space.

Marrero, Feijoo, Moselhi and Warhit appeared unaware of the work that will be required if the District ever does take possession of 515 North Avenue. Carl Thurnau has a good idea of the work involved but failed to disclose that information to the board during the meeting nor has he shared that information with the District-Wide Healthy and Safety Committee.

2017 City Hall Building Condition Survey (.pdf)

In November 2017, the District’s architectural firm, CS Arch, completed a Building Condition Survey for City Hall at 515 North Avenue which pegged total costs to repair City Hall at $11,134,140: $3,753,644 in health and safety costs and $7,381,496 in structural and other costs.

Some of the bigger ticket items include:

  • Roofing replacements $1,905,000
  • Replacement of aluminum exterior windows $1,449,000
  • Replacement of Interior doors/ frames $1,352,000
  • Lighting fixture replacements $973,696
  • Replacement of ACT ceiling systems $476,796
  • Toilet Room renovations $460,600
  • Upgrade of incoming service switchboard & various panels $400,000

There are asbestos/abatement issues throughout the building:

  • Abatement of VAT floor tile throughout building $1,550,000
  • Abate and replace wood flooring on second floor $516,725
  • Plaster damage and potential abatement at Exterior Walls $125,000
  • Plaster damage and potential abatement at Interior Walls $125,000
  • Abatement of Police Station firing range TBD

There are many significant structural issues with 515 North Avenue including water penetration at the foundation of old Police Barracks, large vertical cracking at stair fire walls and cracking and crack repair throughout the building.

To put these dollar figures in context, the 2015 BCSI for New Rochelle High School finalized in April 2016 identified $22.1 million worth of work when the actual cost of work at the high school under the $106.5 million bond has exceeded $40 million. Adjusting $11.1 million at 3% inflation over three years that is more like $12 million in 2020 dollars, now double that to estimate the actual cost of bonded construction to get $24 million than add on the costs of the bond itself (various fees and start up costs) and it comes out to about $35 million just to legalize the existing structure let alone turn it into the sort of Golden Palace envisions by Marrero and Feijoo. The sort of state-of-the-art “palace” envisioned by Moselhi, Warhit, Feijoo and Marrero is closer to $60 million to $80 million which seems high to house 80 students.

Table of Contents

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part I: Acrimony and Blame Shifting

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part II: Proximity

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part III: AP Courses

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part IV: Security at St. Gabes

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part V: St. Gabes Building Condition

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part VI: Phony Photos and Contrived FAQ

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part VII: Recent Review of St. Gabes Building Condition

New Rochelle BOE Discussion on Relocation of Campus School Part XIII: Remaining Questions