A story about our campus redevelopment project was published on DNAinfo.com on March 25, 2016, and subsequently picked up by additional media outlets. Certain aspects of the story are inaccurate and we would like to set the record straight. The school takes this matter seriously.
The school was unaware of any inaccuracies in the letters when they were provided to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in support of the project and would never ask anyone to misrepresent themselves in connection with this project or otherwise.
Many testified and wrote in support of this project at public hearings before the LPC. When we received a letter in January 2016 first bringing to our attention that eight emails were submitted in support of the project by individuals who claimed to live on East 16th Street but who appeared to reside elsewhere, we immediately forwarded the letter to the City. Contrary to what has been reported, these emails were not written on school letterhead. While community support is greatly appreciated by the school, the LPC did not cite community support as one of the 19 factors in its determination of the project’s appropriateness. The design was approved on its merits.
This important academic redevelopment has been through a rigorous public review process, and was approved by the LPC unanimously last May. It was carefully designed to meet the needs of our approximately 1,000 students, teachers and staff, including making our facilities 100% ADA accessible, while still remaining faithful to the architectural and historic character of the neighborhood. Further, it was responsive to the thoughtful feedback received from the Commissioners and from members of the community.
The school has engaged in extensive community outreach regarding the project and looks forward to continuing the dialogue with our neighbors. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are five individuals who seek to impede the project — four of whom live in a 20-story building that towers over the low-rise school buildings. The Article 78 proceeding filed by these individuals is without merit, and the school will continue to proceed with its approved project in accordance with all required permits and approvals. It is important to note that the school’s buildings will increase in height by approximately 17 feet — a relatively modest increase that will significantly enhance the learning environment for our students and also remove barriers for those with disabilities.
Finally, a word about Luigi Caiola, a beloved and respected member of our school community. We have and continue to appreciate deeply his dedication to our school and its academic mission. As Friends Seminary celebrates it 230 years — the past 156 in its current Gramercy Park location — the school is deeply committed to remaining an active member of this historic community, and to continuing to engage with our neighbors in connection with the much-needed redevelopment of our academic facility.