Category Archives: Questions and Answers

Twenty Questions

Here is the text of a flyer that oc2sas members handed out to the 50+ Art School supporters who came to the Sculpture Studio on Thursday, October 28th for the Educational Alliance’s follow-up meeting to the August 31st informational meeting they hosted on the renovations.  The red text is oc2sas’s post-meeting notes.

Welcome! Members of the Organizing Committee to Save the Art School (oc2sas) are very glad you came tonight. We’ve prepared this list of questions to ask EA representatives. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it contains several unanswered questions folks had at the first meeting, as well as questions people have been asking us about since.

We hope you will help us make sure that EA’s representatives are asked every single one of these questions tonight: 

* What are the plans to replace the art library, which was also used for numerous art classes but not counted in your original tally of square footage that was being reduced? 
Robin Bernstein was not very specific in answer to this question and at first said that the library’s collection will be spread out in different places in the renovated building. Later she said it was possible the the library’s holdings could be maintained together in one of the conference rooms.  It does not appear as though there has been much thought to this important collection.  No one actually asked her why the square footage of the current library (over 100 square feet) was not included in the original square footage tally.

* Is the planned new and expanded “art gallery” also going to be the EA lobby, and will it still be accredited? 
There will be two art galleries — one which sounds like it’s going to be part of the lobby, one which will be on the mezzanine level. No one specifically asked her if it would be accredited but folks who are familiar with the process and requirements of accredited art galleries said the plans for them we have heard so far do NOT sound like they are accredited spaces — it sounds like a hallway with art and a lobby with art. EA’s FAQ sheet which was handed out at the meeting simply states, “There will be 2 art galleries in the new building — including one in the main lobby.”

* Your plan eliminates the two most unique spaces of the art school, and the ceiling height is nearly halved.  Why is the gallery expanding? 
This question was not asked at the meeting. Our guess is the gallery is “expanding” only because it’s easy to expand it into the lobby, or to use the large lobby space as a gallery — especially if it does not have to be accredited.

* At the last meeting Lynn and Danny acknowledged and apologized for a failure to plan ANYTHING for the art school during the renovation. Given the tough economic times, we are curious if since then there has been any planning made for displaced art educators and staff? Is EA paying giving them some sort of severance, or offering any kind of professional assistance? 
Last week EA announced that some art classes (14 for the next semester) will be held at other organizational locales. Adult ceramics and painting classes will be held at the Sirovich Center on East 12th Street and adult drawing classes will be held at the 14th Street Y. Many details of these classes have yet to be announced including who the instructors will be. Robin did not discuss any details about the displaced art educators and staff other than to say EA values their contributions and she believes it is not appropriate to discuss their situations publically.

* Can you confirm that the administration has asked the staff to ignore student concerns and remain silent about the renovations? 
Robin denied this.

* Why are you planning services for seniors on the 5th floor when elevators will be inaccessible during fire drills, or a real emergency? Is this why the NYC Department of Buildings disapproved the plans you submitted? 
Though this question was not asked in its entirity during the meeting, after the meeting Robin denied that the building plans were disapproved. Perhaps she knows something we don’t. As of the close of business on Friday the Department of Buildings was still listing the job as disapproved on its website.
http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/JobsQueryByLocationServlet?requestid=1&allbin=1003704&allstrt=EAST+BROADWAY&allnumbhous=197&fillerdata=C

* Why were students misled by blaming the planned expulsion of the welding studio on fire codes? Where did you get this idea, and can you tell us more about your latest reason: “insurance difficulties”? 
Unfortunately this question was not asked during the meeting.

* The Art School’s black and white darkroom photo classes are arguably it’s most popular and unique classes.  Young Artist photo classes are very popular amongst local disadvantaged and minority students, as well as adults and seniors of all kinds. Even though the teen photo classes are offered at various times, students often have to share enlargers. Why would any renovation of theArt School not keep–or even expand–this small, 400 square-foot darkroom?
Several people brought up some variation of this question and Robin reiterated EA’s position that “difficult” decisions had to be made and that the darkrooom — with its “dedicated” (as opposed to “flexible”) purpose — didn’t make the cut. She also, as had Lynn, tried to lay blame for the decision with Art School director Walter O’Neil.

* We have found that the Art School was recently awarded a $400,000 grant by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to expand and improve the Art School. Can you tell us how this planned renovation conforms to the terms of this grant? Is EA risking all of that money by shrinking the art school, both physically and educationally? 
Robin insisted that the renovation project is completely within the parameters of the grant and that the LMDC is aware and supportive of all aspects of the renovation process.

* Mayor Bloomberg regularly bills NYC as a major international art destination, and dozens of art galleries are moving into the Lower East Side. At this time, why is the Educational Alliance downsizing an Art School that has 116 years of credibility that is noted around the world? 
EA’s FAQ handout stated, “We had to make many compromises to fit all of our agency’s programming into the finite space of the building. We made the decision not to reproduce these two studios because they, unlike other studios, cannot be used flexibly to accomodate multiple art disciplines.”

* We were promised the specifics of the three proposed art rooms at the last meeting, but we are still waiting for the most important information. Can you tell us how many square feet each room would be, as well as details on the size and number of the windows? 
EA’s architect, Ray Dovell, answered this question. He said there would be a “ring” of windows in the space which would be four feet high. He said there would be a painting studio of 854 square feet, a drawing studio of 686 square feet, and a ceramics studio of 1241 square feet. He confirmed that the ceiling heights would be 9.5 feet (down from almost 15 in the current spaces). He also shared the new and upsetting information with the meeting attendees that there were no plans to continue the sculpture studio.

* Why were art students and faculty not told about the renovation until late August? And very importantly— why were no art faculty or professional artists in any of the focus groups, or other forms of consultation? 
Robin reiterated Lynn and Danny’s position from the August meeting that EA had not handled this well. But she was insistent that the focus groups and other consultation was valid and that the community was interested in a gym and in additional programming for children and seniors.

* You claim to have included the Director of the Art School in your new plans. Can you tell us specifically how he was consulted and how he contributed?
Robin said that Walter was given the plans for the new space and asked to figure out how best to use it. She implied that he had a great deal of say and input into the process. From what oc2sas has seen, this was not the case.

 * We would like specific details about both “swing spaces” being considered.  Some of them are:

                 – What percentage of the Art Schoolscurrent classes would be offered, and which ones?
                 So far there are 14 classes scheduled for the next semester in adult ceramics, painting, and drawing. Robin did
                 not address any of the specifics below though oc2sas had heard through other sources that there are limited 
                 art studio amentities and no plans for open studio time.

                – Will there be lockers, slop sinks, and other important art studio amenities? 

                – Will there be art classes offered during the daytime as well as evening?

                – Will there be open studio time?  

* Are you at all concerned about permanently besmirching the reputation of the Educational Alliance by continuing to ignore the greater Lower East Side community regarding the renovation?  So what are your plans to include them?
*Nobody asked this, unfortunately, but it’s not hard to guess what the answer would be. Earlier in the week Robin wrote a posting for EA’s blog and in it she referred several times to the “courage” it took to pursue these renovations.

* Members of “oc2sas” would like to address the Board of Trustees at their next meeting. What is the procedure for getting on the agenda? 
*Unfortunately, this question was not asked.

For more information about oc2sas and other activities we are planning, please check out our website at www.oc2sas.wordpress.com  or email us at  oc2sas@juno.com

…and now you can follow us on Twitter & Facebook!

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9 Steps Down

“It’s NOT in the basement!” Lynn Appelbaum, the Educational Alliance’s Chief Program Officer, firmly stated to over 60 angry Art School students at the August 31st informational meeting.  Lynn was responding to oc2sas’s assertion that the Educational Alliance planned to move the historic Art School from its current spacious and traditional studios on the fifth floor to a much smaller basement space with low ceilings, small windows, and little natural light.

That the Art School would be on the “first” floor instead of the basement was just one of  several  things Lynn said with seeming certainty at  the meeting. For example, she claimed that (save for the elimination of the darkroom and welding studio)  the new, post-renovation space for the Art School would be every bit as nice and appropriate as the current one.  She claimed that she was sorry she didn’t have with her (or know offhand) any details such as ceiling heights, square footage, or window size that might help students compare the current space to the planned one. She promised to  email specific information with measurements of all these things within two weeks to the Art School student body.

She doesn’t have a very good record so far.  It turns out that while she was saying all this, she was sitting under a piece of painters tape positioned exactly 9.5 feet off the floor. Two weeks and one day after the meeting when (after repeated requests by oc2sas) she finally sent her long awaited email, it included almost none of the promised information except for — what a coincidence! — the fact that the ceilings in the new Art School would be 9.5 feet high.

So, as previously mentioned  (www.oc2sas.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/appels-and-oranges) after a month of little satisfaction from Lynn, oc2sas went ahead and measured the current Art School so we could get a better sense of whether or not Lynn’s claims that the new space would be essentially the same, were accurate.  But what about the planned post-renovation space for the Art School?  What does that look like? Well, the Educational Alliance is saying very little about that.

Here’s what we have been able to find out on our own about the planned space for the Art School: It will be on what is currently known as the “M” floor (“M” stands for Mezzanine) of the Educational Alliance. It’s not in the original building, it’s in the extension built in the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, 1960’s construction was quite different from that of the 1800’s.

How do you get to the M floor? Two ways. You can enter through the EA main entrance at 197 E. Broadway, cut through the Ernest Rubenstin Gallery, hang a right at the vending machines, walk down one flight (9 steps), and hang a left at the end of the stairwell.  Alternatively, you can enter from the Jefferson Street entrance (by the theatre), and then walk down a sloping hallway to get to the main part of the M floor. See the photo on the right? Note how in the bottom of that photo different types of flooring were once laid, presumably to compensate for the rather steep grade change of the floor.  Here’s a video of the slope toward the M floor:  www.flickr.com/photos/oc2sas/6270439337/in/photostream

This all looks and seems like a basement to us. But, WAIT, don’t you remember? According to Lynn and Danny this is NOT the basement.  The Educational Alliance calls the floor the gym is on (another flight down from the M floor) the basement, so that must mean the M floor is something different. Semantics are a wonderful thing!

So if the M floor isn’t the basement, what is it? Is it the first floor like they claim? Not exactly and that’s clear not only from the steps and the slope, but from the windows. Below are three pictures of the M floor windows that were taken outside on Jefferson Street. The left picture highlights the difference between the size of the 5th floor windows and those on the M floor. The middle and right picture show not only how small the windows are but also how the security mesh will further diminish the already low level of natural light. From the picture on the right — which if you examine closely you will see peers inside the building — you can also get a sense of how high up on the wall the windows are (and conversely how the floor of the inside room is below street level). 

But maybe the M floor just LOOKS like a basement from the outside. What about the inside of those rooms on the M floor? Does that perspective help us to understand this as the “first” floor as Lynn claims? Not really.  The pictures from the inside (see below) just confirm what we already know.  There are small windows placed near the ceilings of (most of) the rooms. There are low ceilings — maybe EA is planning to remove the dropped ceilings and the resulting ones will be 9.5 feet high.  That’s not going to change the window placement that much though — they will still be relatively high up from the floor. Between their placement and small size it’s clear why the windows don’t provide much natural light and  why the M floor clearly is almost totally dependent on flourescent lighting.

This all sounds (and looks) more and more like a basement, similar to the ones common in split level houses  or — as far too many New Yorkers are familiar with — the layout of a typical  basement apartment. In fact, technically, the M floor isn’t just the basement, New York City classifies it as part of the CELLAR. Here is a copy of the original Certificate of Occupancy for the building (which has a different address than the main building — it’s actually 179 Henry Street). If there was any doubt that the M floor is NOT the first floor, this should end that.

Interestingly, EA has hung in the lobby large artist renderings of the renovated interior spaces. There’s a picture of the fifth floor “multipurpose” room (oddly with what looks like china and silverware settings on the tables), another of what looks like a cardio room of the health and wellness center, a picture of a children’s classroom, and then some lobby pictures and a picture of the entrance. There’s NO picture of the post-renovation Art School. Why not? If the Art School is as “valued” as Lynn claimed it is in the August 31st meeting, if the new space is going to be as wonderful as EA President and CEO, Robin Bernstein, attests it will be on the EA blog — why not show it off? Our only explanation is that the Educational Alliance is trying its best to hide the real truth — that the Art School is being sacrificed and marginalized to a vastly inferior space all so the fifth floor can be converted to a euphemistically called “multipurpose” room with skyline views for when EA rents it out for weddings and holds Board and other VIP functions there.

It’s unnecessary. It’s shameful. But it’s happening unless we do something that convinces the Board of Trustees otherwise. What have YOU done? Here are three ways you can help oc2sas make a difference:
1. Sign the petition.
2. Call: Robin Bernstein, Educational Alliance President & CEO, 212-780-2300 and Russell Makowsky, President , Board of Trustees, 212-715-0300, x130. Let them know sacrificing the Art School for skyline views is unacceptable and unnecessary — a perfectly fine multipurpose room can be built on the M floor without adversely affecting the Art School.
3. Come to the Educational Alliance this Thursday, October 27th at 6pm to let the Educational Alliance know the current planned renovations are a BAD IDEA.

Appelbaum and Orange Arrows and Coincidences

This picture is from the August 31st meeting hosted by EA consultant Danny Rosenthal and EA Chief Program Officer Lynn Appelbaum. See those big orange arrows we drew in? They are pointing to some painters tape that was on the wall of the painting studio when the meeting was held there. We recently discovered that the tape (which is still there by the way) is 9.5 feet from the floor. Coincidentally(?), 9.5 is the same height of the ceilings for the new art “studios” which will be housed on the “ground” floor of the building after the planned renovations are completed.

You can’t quite see the ceilings of the current painting studio in this picture, they’re too far up. But they are over 14 feet high. How do we know all this? We measured. We got tired of waiting for Lynn and Danny to keep their promise to provide us with the exact information they claimed they didn’t have at the August 31st meeting. Lynn assured students then that the new space dedicated to the art school would be almost as big as the current one. Students responded that referring to the overall space was too vague, without specific details it was like comparing apples to oranges. Lynn reiterated that the new space was almost as large as the current one and apologized for not bringing the specs or exact details with her. She promised that within two weeks she would send an email to students that would describe precisely how the new studios compared to the current ones in terms of square footage, ceiling height, and window size as well as provide information about the “modern fire codes” which she and Danny claimed precluded the possibility of EA continuing welding classes after the renovations. Two weeks and one day later students received an email from Lynn which did not live up to her promises: 

*Instead of providing a studio by studio comparison for square footage, Lynn repeated what she had said at the meeting — that the overall square footage currently dedicated to the Art School and its gallery is 4900 square feet and that the post-renovations square footage dedicated to the Art School and its gallery would be 4000 square feet.

*Instead of telling us what the current studio ceiling heights are, studio by studio, and how each new studio compared (as she had promised to do on August 31st), Lynn merely stated that the new studios would have ceiling heights of 9 1/2 feet. And, yes, we too find it suspicious that on August 31st neither she nor Danny knew that the painters tape on the wall was the height of the new ceilings.

*Instead of telling us how big the current windows in each studio are and how big (or small) the windows in the new studios will be, Lynn only referred to “new windows” in the new studios.

*Instead of providing any details about the fire codes which she had claimed made it impossible for EA to include a welding studio in the new art school space, Lynn simply offered another — equally vague – explanation for the elimination of the welding studio, that “…following consultation with building and insurance experts, we came to the conclusion that housing a welding studio in a community center that serves many different populations poses too great a safety risk.” As for the darkroom, she repeated her rationale from the August meeting — that because the darkroom needs to have a large sink and enlargers it, “unlike the other studios, cannot be used flexibly to accommodate multiple art disciplines” and therefore EA can’t find space for the (currently less than 400 square feet) it takes up.

Despite repeated requests for more information since that meeting and since Lynn’s self-imposed September 14th deadline, more than a month has passed without students getting the promised information. So oc2sas decided to try and find out on our own. Here’s what we came up with so far which is tough to do since, unlike Danny and Lynn, we don’t have any access to the architects’ plans or specs.

 Current Art School Space on 5th Floor of 197 E. Broadway* (Click room names for photos and more info) 

Studios and Other Rooms/Spaces

Dimensions Total Sq. Ft.

Ceiling Height

Painting Studio 35 x 28 980  ~14.75
Sculpture Studio 34 x 25.5 947  ~14
Ceramics Studio 31 x 20.5 635.5  ~14
Welding Studio 21 x 46 966  ~14
Darkroom 15.5 x 19.5 (302.25) + 5 x 12 (60) + 5 x 7 (35) 397.25 ~14
Library ~16.5 x 15 247.5 ~14 
Interior halls/locker areas/”lobby” 43 x 5 (215) + 56 x 6 (336) + 15 x 25 (375) 926 NA
Offices ~9 x 28 252  NA
TOTALS   5351.25  

*All measurements for current studios in feet and rounded/estimated downward if precise numbers not available. Additional square footage of 5th floor (bathrooms, closets, storage areas in some studios, director’s office space, office space east of library, and children’s classroom) not included in totals. First floor gallery spaces not included in totals.

 Placement/Size of Windows for Current Art School Space on 5th Floor of 197 E. Broadway*

Windows

Window Shape/Size # of
Windows

Distance to base of windows

Painting Studio Rectangular (34″w x 54″h) 4.5 34″ from floor
Painting Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point) 2 37″ from ceiling
Sculpture Studio Rectangle (34″w x 54″h) 10.5 34″ from floor 
Sculpture Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point)  5 37″ from ceiling 
Ceramics Studio Rectangle (34″w x 54″h) 34″ from floor
Ceramics Studio Half Moon (78″w  x 45″h at highest point)  2 37″ from ceiling 
TOTALS   30  

*No, we didn’t risk breaking our necks to figure this out. We measured the bricks (2.5 inches high) and then counted and multiplied (just like for square footage we measured floor tiles). So this is a guesstimate but we believe it’s a fairly accurate one.

Planned Post-Renovations Art School Space on “Ground” Floor of 197 E. Broadway

Rooms/Spaces

Dimensions Total Sq. Footage Ceiling Height

# Windows, Placement, Dimensions

Art Room #1 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Art Room #2 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Art Room #3 Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* 9′ 5″ Awaiting info since Aug. 31*
Darkroom (eliminated) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Welding Studio (eliminated) N/A N/A N/A N/A
Library (unclear if eliminated) Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Offices Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Galleries Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Awaiting info since Aug. 31* Unknown N/A
TOTALS Awaiting info since Aug. 31* “4000” (as per Lynn Appelbaum on 9/15)   Awaiting info since Aug. 31*

*At the August 31st information meeting, Lynn Appelbaum promised she would email comparative information on square footage, ceiling height, and window size of both the current and future spaces to art students by September 14th. On September 16th she sent an email that specified the overall sizes of the current and “renovated” art school and the ceiling heights in the renovated space. Despite repeated requests she has yet to provide any of the other promised information.

So, clearly we don’t have the necessary tools to complete this chart — however Lynn and Danny and any other member of the EA Administration certainly does. Why won’t they give us this promised information? The only reason we can come up with is showing us the information will only lend credence to our accusations that they have been disingenuous about the planned renovations.  The current and planned spaces for the Art School are not almost the same, they are radically different. EA’s claim that the Art School has to move in order to make room for expanded programs for children and seniors and a new health and wellness center is nonsense.  The renovation plans call to convert most of the fifth floor to a euphemistically called “multipurpose” room. EA has admitted that this space will sometimes be rented out for weddings and other special events and that it will also hold Board of Trustee and other VIP functions. We understand the need to have a nice space for fundraising purposes, but EA can build a perfectly fine space for that on the ground floor without adversely affecting the Art School.

And that’s why oc2sas exists — we are working hard to persuade the Board of Directors that they need to reconsider their renovation plans, not just to preserve the Art School, but also to preserve the integrity and reputation of the larger institution. 

Here are two simple things you can do to help:
1) Sign the petition (see the tab above).
2) Call  EA President & CEO, Robin Bernstein (212-780-2300) and EA Board of Trustees President, Russell Makowsky (212-715-0300, x130).  Tell them that YOU care about the Art School remaining exactly how it is. Tell them they can build a “multipurpose” room on the ground floor without adversely impacting seniors, children, the gym, OR the Art School.

Frequently Asked Questions

The title of this post is misleading — we’ll try not to wait for a question to rise to the level of  “frequently asked” to answer it.

Question: Who started oc2sas?
Answer:  A varied group of students at the Art School. We’ve been hearing lots of talk about the upcoming “renovations” — in our classes, outside of our classes, in the bathroom(!) and on the elevator. We weren’t getting many concrete answers about what is going on from teachers or the folks who work in the office, so we decided to try and do something to get the word out to more people so we can do something before it is too late. By the way, we define “too late” as the architects have finished their plans, the work is starting, EA’s “Powers That Be” will be unable (or claim they are unable) to turn back from their plan to move the art school to a much smaller and darker space on the “ground floor” and eliminate the darkroom and welding studio.

Question: Why are you against the renovations? Isn’t the School in need of renovations?
Answer: Sure the Art School (and the whole building) is in need of renovation. We think it’s GREAT that renovations are going to happen. BUT we don’t think the final product of the renovations is great — moving the Art School to a much smaller and darker space on the “ground floor” and eliminating the darkroom and welding studio. We think that’s a bad idea. We’re not looking to stop renovations. Rather we’re looking to renovate the renovation plans.

Question: Why are you against the new gym (aka “Health and Wellness Center”)?
Answer: We’re not. Nor are we “against” more programming for young children, or seniors, or a greener building, or any of the other things about the renovations that sound exciting and valuable for the Lower East Side community and beyond. We just don’t believe that any of those exciting and valuable things should (or need to) happen at the expense of the Art School, which we think should continue AS IS as the vital resourse it is to the Lower East Side community and beyond.

Question: I got an email/letter from you. How did you get my contact information?
Answer: Well, some word of mouth but mostly Google is downright AMAZING! By the way, we hope you’ll stay on our mailing list (and if you’re not on it, we hope you’ll join it — email us at oc2sas@juno.com). We anticipate sending out updates at about a rate of once every one or two weeks. BUT if you don’t want to get any e/mails from us, it’s pretty simple. Send us an email and ask us to remove your name from the list. We’ll send you one last email to confirm we are taking you off our list and then, VOILA(!) no more emails from us! We think the future of the Art School is pretty important but we have no interest in sending information to people who are annoyed by getting it.

Question: When exactly is the School closing for renovations?
Answer: We’re not certain. To the best of our knowledge the plan now is that Fall, 2011 will be the last semester until renovations are complete (prediction is renovations will take two years). Anybody who lives on the Upper East Side knows that multiple generations of people in that neighborhood have been anticipating a Second Avenue subway so who really knows for sure when work will start here. But since the important issue to us isn’t stopping renovations per se, it’s just making sure they are done properly and not used as some excuse to move the Art School to a space that is vastly inferior to its current one while cutting valued programs like photography and welding, the timeline isn’t so important. Just in case renovations start on time (and we genuinely hope they do), we want to make sure that there are “good” renovation plans in place.

Question: What will happen to the Art School during the years of renovation?
Answer: We don’t know. Recently we’ve heard rumors that the Art School would like to relocate during the renovations which would be a great alternative to shutting down for two years. From what we understand there are no definite plans yet (we imagine finding an affordable space is quite difficult these days). We’d surely like to be part of a solution for this problem so we put this challenge out to all of you: Do YOU have any suggestions for a temporary space for the art school? Let us know (and let the Art School office folks know too — we’re sure they have a lot on their plates right about now and probably would appreciate any leads).