Peninsula Preparatory Academy moved to land owned by Malcolm Smith contributor, Benjamin Companies (NY Daily News, March 21, 2010)
The phalanx of drab trailers ringed by a chain-link fence in a desolate corner of Queens looks more like a prison than a charter school.
The cramped Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School has no science lab, no gymnasium, no playground and no on-site kitchen. Hot meals are trucked in from 3 miles away, and the school's 300 students dodge cars just to reach the front door.
The official reason for the relocation was "increased enrollment" - but the Daily News has learned Peninsula Preparatory Academy was moved to land owned and under development by one of Smith's top campaign donors.
Queens developer Benjamin Companies is in a partnership building homes near the school - and started using Peninsula as a selling point to hawk the seaside residences…
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City, state officials pass buck about horrid conditions at charter school (NY Daily News, March 22, 2010)
City and state officials passed the buck Sunday on the fate of students crammed into two trailers in the middle of a construction site.
The News reported yesterday about the outlandish conditions students at Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter school in Queens must endure.
Three hundred students attend class in trailers in a fenced-in lot, surrounded by mounds of dirt, with no gymnasium, science lab, cafeteria or playground.
The charter school was previously housed at the well-equipped Middle School 53.
"The school's board made the decision to move, and has not requested a move since," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said yesterday in a statement. "We will continue to engage with the leadership and parents, and try as best we can to accommodate the needs and concerns being expressed."
No new school building is under construction, even though more than $500,000 in tax dollars has reportedly been spent on "construction in progress."
The houses are being built by the Benjamin Cos. partnership, which contributed $144,500 to Smith's campaign and political action committee since 2002, records show.
Smith denied that campaign contributions had anything to do with the construction deal - or the school's shabby surroundings. He claimed the school moved because the Education Department refused to let it expand at MS 53.
An Education Department spokesman insisted the school never asked for more space.
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Malcolm Smith says charter school was squeezed, but Peninsula Preparatory Academy denies it (NY Daily News, March 24, 2010)
School officials don't believe Senate President Malcolm Smith's claim that a charter school he founded was forced out of a public school into fenced-in trailers that resemble a prison.
Monereau's comments follow a Sunday Daily News report that revealed Peninsula moved out of MS 53 into trailers on property being developed by one of Smith's top campaign donors. The developer uses the school as a selling point to hawk his houses.
Confronted by reporters, Smith claimed the developers' needs had nothing to do with the move. Instead, he said Peninsula asked MS 53 for more space due to expanding enrollment, and that MS 53 and the Department of Education turned them down.
DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said the school never requested to expand, and Monereau said there was no reason to move. Monereau said MS 53 had plenty of room when Peninsula moved out in 2008.
"Smith claimed the school moved because there was not enough space. That's baloney," Monereau said. "I don't know what they're talking about. Before they left, we walked through the building in June. We thought that they were going to stay."
"There must have been something cooking. How are you going to leave a school and put those children in those cages?"
At MS 53, Peninsula also had access to a new $500,000 science lab, a new $1 million playground, a cafeteria and a gym.
The cramped trailers have no science lab, no playground and the "gym" is two rooms within a trailer that also serves as auditorium and cafeteria.