Making Necessary Upgrades to School Construction Projects

By Lorraine Grillo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA)

Building state-of-the-art facilities for students to grow and learn is an investment in our communities and the future of our city.

Baseline costs for construction projects are just that, a baseline — an estimate for an idea. As projects develop and the design furthers, scopes change and opportunities to add components and upgrade safety elements are implemented in order to ensure we are providing the best space possible for our students and staff.

Cost changes are a natural part of construction projects and reflect the evolution of projects. These changes are shared with elected officials and community members, and are also made available in the SCA’s Capital Plan, which is posted online for public review.

The coverage on this topic in the New York Post is misleading and ignores key facts of the construction process. The cost increases outlined in the Post’s story were due in large part to adding components to the original project. Comparing baseline estimates to current project costs is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Let’s take IS 125 in Queens as an example. The baseline estimate for the new addition was $75.6 million and the total estimated cost is currently $98.1 million. At the time of the original estimate, the size of the addition was scheduled at 600 seats. After an assessment was conducted, it was determined that the project could actually accommodate 730 seats. The changes to the cost include this expansion and would bring an additional 130 seats to address longstanding overcrowding in the area. The additional cost also covers: the demolition of an existing mini building; alterations to the fire alarm, public address system and other systems; necessary renovations of existing rooms; updates to bathrooms, the construction of a new elevator in the main building to make them ADA compliant; and the removal of transportable classrooms.

Similarly, at PS 11 in Queens, the additional cost supports ADA upgrades; renovations to existing bathrooms; new ceilings; upgrades to the cafeteria, auditorium, lobby, and main entrance; classrooms; electrical service; fire alarm system and sprinkler system; as well as a new elevator shaft and the removal of transportable classrooms units, which required renovations to the existing school yard. At Curtis High School on Staten Island, additional work was necessary in the existing building, including ADA upgrades, room conversions, upgrades to the fire alarm system, public address system and security system, and construction of a full-size competition gymnasium.

The SCA is dedicated to building safe, attractive, and sound public schools for children across New York City. We aim to do so in a cost effective manner, but never at the expense of achieving the highest standards for safety, quality, and integrity. We want to build the best facilities possible for our students and we’ll continue to maximize each project’s full potential to ensure the best and safest learning conditions for students and staff.