Yonkers Renews its $2 Billion ‘Rebuild Yonkers Schools’ Campaign
John Jordan | February 2017
YONKERS—After securing a partial victory last year in its efforts to have New York State finance most of its planned $2-billion capital program for the Yonkers school district, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano re-launched the “Rebuild Yonkers Schools” campaign to secure more favorable terms from the State Legislature.
Last year, Yonkers was successful in its first step in rebuilding Yonkers schools when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation allowing the City of Yonkers to create the Yonkers Joint Schools Construction Board, the official steering committee that will oversee the repairing and rebuilding of Yonkers’ schools and can bond for the cost of construction.
The Yonkers school construction bill was passed overwhelmingly in both houses last year. The Assembly approved the measure by a 137-2 vote on June 15, while the Senate adopted the proposal unanimously in a 62-0 vote on Thursday, June 16. However, the measure called for Yonkers to receive approximately 70% reimbursement from the state for its capital construction. The city is now renewing its efforts to secure state aid on par with other upstate cities such as Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo that secured 98% reimbursement from New York State for their respective school construction projects.
Mayor Spano unveiled the campaign’s re-launch at Yonkers Middle High School to more than 100 Yonkers public school student leaders on Feb. 15th and asked them to contact state legislators to fund the $2-billion infrastructure plan.
“Today, we begin the next step in our fight to Rebuild Yonkers Schools,” said Mayor Spano. “We were successful last year in obtaining the governor’s and state’s commitment to the thousands of students in the Yonkers Public Schools whose education will benefit from modern, healthy learning environments. We have a strong foundation to start the next phase of the process, which should include state reimbursements to fund the project—that’s why we need everyone’s continued support, especially from our young people, to ensure our voices are heard. The message to the State is simple: fund to rebuild our schools.”
The Rebuild Yonkers Schools $2-billion plan would roll out in four phases with an estimated completion date of 2029. The four phases of the plan that would take 13 years to complete include:
• Phase I—infrastructure improvements to all 39 schools and the building of three new schools (new Gorton High School, and two other new schools); estimated cost $523 million.
Phase II-IV—Extensive renovations, additions and infrastructure improvements at every school.
Yonkers Board of Education President Rev. Steve Lopez said of the plan, “Communities are judged by the quality of their schools. We have great teachers and administrators who provide a strong instructional program. What we must have are schools that are capable of supporting current and future technology and adequate instructional space for libraries, art and music. Our entire community benefits when students have the ability to truly excel.”
“Rebuilding Yonkers schools can no longer be a conversation; it must become a reality,” added Yonkers Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Edwin M. Quezada. “Our students are learning in spaces that are not suitable for a 21st Century education. This is a travesty that must be corrected. Yonkers deserves the same support that has been provided to similar communities. Yonkers is poised and ready for sustainable solutions for student success. Give our students, teachers and administrators the opportunity to excel in facilities that are able to support a full array of instructional programs. Anything less is unacceptable.”
The average age of Yonkers Public Schools is 75 years old with many as old as 100 years old, making them some of the oldest in New York State, city officials noted. The District is also one of two districts in New York with a growing enrollment teaching 27,000 students, which is currently 4,500 seats over capacity. As a result, students are being taught in spaces that were never intended to serve as classrooms such as basements, libraries and auditoriums. Alternate classroom accommodations including annexes and mobile trailers also have become overcrowded.