About the school government wants to demolish
Neighbors say Building has asbestos


The beauty of the old elementary school P.S. 109, in El Barrio, is not the only reason its neighbors have to protest the demolition of the building.

Less emotional reasons exist, such as the risk of contamination by asbestos.

Although the Board of Education and the School Construction Authority (SCA) stand decided to demolish the building, before proceding with the demolition they have to eliminate the asbestos the building may have. Asbestos, a material much used in building construcition, is a cancer-causing substance, and their are specific rules which govern the demolition of buildings which contain it.

At this time, the workers employed at the P.S. 109 building are being prepared for the removal of asbestos, according to a spokesperson for the School Construction Authority, Debra Perry.

Once it is certified that the asbestos has been eliminated and other preliminary jobs are completed, the Authority must apply for permission from the Buildings Department to demolish P.S. 109, Perry indicated. This will not happen before the passage of a few weeks.

The neighbor of the school who discovered the demolition plans, Gwen Goodwin, said for her part that she fears that the demolition would scatter asbestos through the surroundings of the school. Goodwin said that she is worred because those working on the structure are not union members. The removal of asbestos, she pointed out, "is a specialized job. For that reason it should be carried out by union members.

Perry said that the School Construction Authority is completely within its rights to contract with employees who are not members of a labor union.

Another aspect which worries the neighbors in the zone is the apparent absence of a plan for the ground that the old school currently occupies.

The architect Raymond Plumey, who describes P.S. 109 as an architectural treasure, said that it is perfectly possible to repair the structure, maintain its beauty, and utilize it to create housing units.

Goodwin fears taht El Barrio may be on the point of losing one of the buildings that give character and beauty to the neighborhood, because it would be replaced by one of those modern buildings that looks more like a box than a building.

They shoul not be destroying a building put up more than a century ago, she adds


They are demolishing an old architectural jewel in El Barrio


Without many of the nearby neighbors knowing it, the school authorities are preparing to demolish an old architectural jewel in El Barrio.

This concerns elementary school P.S. 109, on 99th Street, a building so beautiful and impressive that it resembles a cathedral.

"You're joking," was the comment of an architect consulted by this newspaper, when he was informed that the Board of Education had authorized the demolitioin.

The Gothic-style building is ringed by scaffolding, and because there is no sign that indicates the real nature of the work that is being carried out, the people who live in the surrounding area have been inclined to think there is a sincere try to reinforce the structure.

It was hardly a week ago that an area resident, Gwen Goodwin, dedided to approach the workers and ask them what they were doing.

From that moment, Goodwin has been desperately calling government agencies and doing everything possible to stop the demolition. She has alerted her neighbors, coming across many who were students or teachers at P.S. 109, including one of the contract demolition workers who had studied there.

The Board of Education determined that it was necessary to demolish the building because "it has many structural problems," according to David Galarza, a spokesperson for the Board.

Galarza said that the decision was difficult, but that in the end the Board determined that it would be very costly to repair the structure. The Board plans to save only a few of the most beautiful details of the building so that, if a school is again built on the same place, those artifacts could be exhibited for remembrance.

Goodwin and others interested in rescuing the structure question if indeed it would be so expensive to repair the old school, and if the problems are as serious as the Board of Education claims.

"This school was so well constructed that nowadays no one could reproduce it," said Goodwin, who has consulted architechts and builders in her effort to convince the authorities to save the school.

The structure's design, according to Goodwin, included details such as terracota roofing, skylights, gargoyles and copper steeples.

"It is such a beautiful building that to me it is as if they were raping and pillaging our community," she remarked.

In agreement with that is the Puerto Rican architect Raymond Plumy, who has thoroughly studied the designs of old buildings in El Barrio. Plumey says that from the outside the building does not seem to have serious damage and he is sure that it is possible to repair it.

"This is a building that must be preserved," Plumey noted. The old P.S. 109, he added, "is an architectural treasure," and if it is not landmarked as part of the historic heritage of the city, it is only because no one has submitted an official application to secure it.

El caso de la escuela 109 hizo que Plumey mencionara otra escuela de El Barrio que estuvo a punto de ser demolida por la ciudad: la antigua escuela 72, construida en 1881, y q ue luego de una ardua lucha de la comunidad se convirtió en el centro cultural Julia de Burgos.

The caes of P.S. 109 reminded Plumey to mention that another school in El Barrio which was on the point of being demolished by the City: the old P.S. 72, built in 1881, and after an arduous struggle by the community, it was converted into the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.

Por su parte, Goodwin se pregunta si, de destar la escuela 109 en otra parte de la ciudad, en un vecindario que no fuera hispano y pobre, el edificio correría la misma suerte.

For her part, Goodwin asks herself whether, if P.S. 109 were in another part of the city, in a neighborhood that was not Hispanic and poor, would it be undergoing the same luck.

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