Mayor de Blasio is robbing Peter to pay Paul — withholding $12 million in funds allocated for improvements to Manhattan public schools, including upgrades to ventilation systems, to help plug the $5 billion deficit caused by the coronavirus, according to the borough president.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote to the mayor last week about the money she’d set aside last year for technology, upgrades to HVAC and cooling systems, bathroom repairs, and refillable water bottle stations at public schools in the borough.
“It is shocking to me that these desperately needed funds have not yet been released,” Brewer wrote. “I have made numerous inquiries at various levels of government and have gotten no reliable information.”
“At first, I was told that all capital spending had to be related to handling the pandemic. This clearly includes funding dedicated to digital tools for remote learning and improved air circulation systems,” she continued.
A City Hall spokeswoman insisted to The Post that the Department of Education has already put sufficient resources into making schools safe for students to return on Sept. 10.
“The city has been focused on readying school buildings for re-opening for months, including checking classrooms to ensure proper air flow and getting HVAC systems ready,” mayoral spokeswoman Laura Feyer said.
“For remote work, we’ve gotten over over 320,000 devices to New York City students to ensure they can learn at home. The city is facing a fiscal crisis but is continuing to invest the resources necessary to ensure a safe school re-opening.”
She added that the lack of federal aid or a massive loan from Albany has forced the city to reserve capital funds to pay for other projects.
But a spokeswoman for Brewer said that many of the facilities still need technology for remote learning and ventilation updates for in-person schooling.
“Without a doubt these projects are all imminent for a safe reopening of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brewer wrote.
In the letter, Brewer questions if the mayor has already spent or “misappropriated” the funds for other uses.
“How can we ask principals to make their buildings safe and ensure all students have the tools for remote learning if you will not release already allocated funding for appropriate purposes?” she asks.
Both principals’ and the teachers’ unions have expressed grave concerns that the Department of Education is not prepared to reopen schools safely for in-person learning next month.
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