Call it “The School of Hard...” — never mind.
The city should turn an alleged whorehouse into a house of learning, Sunset Park parents say. Two dozen demonstrators gathered in front of the Sunny 39 Hotel on 39th Street, which cops raided this month for allegedly operating as a brothel, demanding the city build an education facility on the property to deal with overcrowding at nearby schools on Oct. 22. The city has been slow to deliver on promised new schools in the area, citing lack of land — but the now-shuttered hotel is a perfect opportunity, one parent said.
“All they keep saying is that we’re going to have a new school, but they don’t say where,” said Mimi Ferrer of the group Concerned Parents of Sunset Park. “Here is a space, there’s plenty of spaces available. Stop saying there’s no space when there’s space. I’m tired of seeing hotels being built up, seeing apartments being built up, but no schools being built. Our teachers are overwhelmed, our parents are overwhelmed, and our classrooms are overcrowded.”
Three of four nearby schools are well over capacity, city data shows. Education officials report that PS 169 on Seventh Avenue has a capacity of just under 1,300 students, but there were more than 1,600 enrolled there, according to 2015 enrollment data from the Department of Education. PS 94 on Sixth Avenue is similarly burdened, and PS 1 on 47th Street is more than 100 students over its 1,158 capacity, data shows.
The city’s existing plan to create 113 new seats over five years in a district that needs 1,900 drew locals’ ire in March.
The four-story, 44-room hotel between Fifth and Sixth avenues has been empty since cops arrested the owners and manager arrested and charged with permitting prostitution and falsifying business records on Oct. 15. Authorities alleged they knowingly funneled clients to rooms being rented by pimps and prostitutes.
A local politician has joined the fight, sending Mayor DeBlasio a letter urging him to step in.
“This hotel is now in our past and we need to move on,” Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park) wrote to Mayor Tall on Oct. 23. “I ask that you look into preventing this building from operating as a hotel and to covert this site into a much-needed school for Sunset Park’s ever-growing population, already overcrowded into too few facilities.”
Hizzoner hasn’t responded to Ortiz yet, a spokesman for the assemblyman said.
Prosecutors could potentially seize the building, but they would have to do so in a civil case apart from the criminal case levied against the owners, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case. If seized, the lot would be sold to the highest bidder and the money split between the agencies involved in the raid.