In the past 20 years or so, tens of thousands of city public school kids have attended classes in trailers parked outside their schools, and now, the city says they're on their way out. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
City Hall, recently restored, was the setting for story time Tuesday: story after story about deplorable conditions thousands of students face inside the city's 352 classroom trailers.
"They provide unhealthy learning environments at their worst. They can be moldy. We've heard people say they smell of animal urine," said Mark Ladov of the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
"They're held together by chewing gum and scotch tape," said Richard Mantell, a vice president with the teachers' union.
It's all familiar to the new chairman of the City Council education committee. Before becoming a council member, Daniel Dromm was a teacher, and for seven years, he taught in a trailer.
"The walls were so warped that you cannot attach a toilet paper rack to the wall because every time a child went to pull the toilet paper, the rack itself would come off of the wall. So the solution was to chain it to the toilet bowl pipe," Dromm said. "You know, this is unbelievable that we have to talk about these things in modern-day New York City public schools."
Classroom trailers were installed in the '90s as a supposedly temporary solution to overcrowding. They still serve about 12,000 students every day.
Now, the city says it plans to eliminate the trailers during the next five years, a pledge that was universally applauded during the Council hearing Tuesday.
"A temporary fixture, they've now become almost permanent in our lives, and we're a city that's larger than that," said Ernest Logan, president of the principals' union.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first capital plan for city schools had also called for eliminating the trailers. He even set a date: 2012. Yet by 2008, that goal had been quietly removed, replaced by a much vaguer statement that the city would work to "transition" from the temporary classrooms.
The latest capital budget, a five-year, $12.8-billion plan set to begin in July, includes $480 million for removing all the trailers. What it does not include is a plan for where to put those thousands of students, or a timeline for when the wrecking balls would move in. Lawmakers and advocates say they want more specifics to make sure that this time, the trailers really go away for good.