Park West Education Complex: No Hot Water/ DOE Yawns

Mar 21, 2017 by

Five public high schools ( including one specializing in cooking) compressed into a single Manhattan building, (which to sound more quaint a and akin to the groves of academe, is called a “campus”) have for three years been without hot water.  Despite appeals to every broken link in the Department of Education’s chain of command, the “powers that be” have been the powers that aren’t.

They haven’t fixed the problem.It’s Office of Gibberish and Jive figures that by doing nothing, their empty promises have literally been fulfilled.

Of course the DOE has no Office of Gibberish and Jive, or at least it doesn’t go by that name. But their well-remunerated mouthpiece’s reaction to the protests of the school communities can be projected:  “What a bunch of crybabies!  And why are their hands so damned cold?”

With a bare-bones DOE budget of around $35 billion, potable water must be viewed as a luxury, not a necessity. There is no wiggle- room  for plumbing updates on the ledger. During fiscal austerity, there is no option to restraint. That’s the way those senior folks at the DOE feel, as they head out to their pads on the Gold Coast, the Hamptons and St Barts.

The water’s been cold and so has been the reception to complaints at the DOE.  The drought has not been of water but of respect.

The DOE doesn’t even blame the problem on money. Neither do they offer any other explanation. To have done so would at least suggest that they can feel some shame. But neither did they when there was a lengthy gas outage and they sat on their Tweedian cushions until  under duress of bad publicity.

The DOE responds much faster when it’s a matter of their own face-saving and damage-control than of the school community’s mere safety. They find glory in charade.

There’s massive institutional precedent for that assertion.

Of course you don’t need to have hot water to proceed with most classroom lessons. We don’t need the DOE’s research department to know that.  But why can’t they complete a single, simple and straightforward repair that is not inherently time-consuming?

When bridges were bombed and collapsed into the river during World War II. it was re-built almost overnight sufficient for the passage of sturdy tanks across it.

Are we overlooking something?  Maybe the DOE has a secret and laudable reason for  denying Park West Educational Campus a bit of warmth: to build character. Adversity breeds strength, especially among the striving classes.

At least two great composers went blind having years earlier transcribed musical notes by candlelight. A Nobel Prize novelist was a child when he trudged miles through snowdrifts to acquire a book ( Society didn’t spoil him rotten with a Metrocard). And indeed countless other artists, scientists, explorers, inventor, and captains of industry had to endure hardship and overcome handicaps, so why is this hot water thing stuck in the craw of the Park West malcontents, I can hear the DOE folks saying in their confidential environment.

If the problem occurred in any of the DOE’s administrative complexes, it would be repaired hypersonically. The DOE’s attitude is more of a put-off than is the taste of their water.

The children and adults at Park West are being demeaned and treated with contempt. They know that the Depression-era amenities would not be tolerated by most charter schools.I’d choose Park West any day over Success Academy, for example, but not having hot water for three straight years would be unheard- of there.

Public schools are still our best bet. It matters more what’s in the heart than what fills the pipes. But clearly for the water temperature to rise in Park West’s fountains, lounges, bathrooms and kitchens, we must first put the Department of Education’s feet to the fire.

Ron Isaac


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