Hebrew Academy Charter Panned, Jeered at Marine Park Hearing

The city is eager to put a charter school called Hebrew Language Academy, bankrolled by the Stenhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, in Marine Park. There have been objections from civil libertarians and from Diane Ravitch to the presumed religious nature of the school. But yesterday, GerritsenBeach.net reports, residents of the district showed their displeasure on different grounds -- namely, that they'd be obliged to house the charter school at Intermediate School 278 -- against which, the site says, protesters gathered 6,441 signatures. And they got comptroller William Thompson, congressman Anthony Weiner, state senator Martin Golden (who "drove 3:30 hours from Albany"), and councilman Lew Fidler to come to a well-attended hearing at the school and express, at various levels of intensity, concerns with the plan (though some of them professed support for charter schools in general).

(Weiner seems to have boned up on the issue since his representative got a rougher reception in a previous meeting, as detailed by MarineParker: "He started to discuss a climate change bill and credit card reform that Anthony Wiener was working on, that's when the crowd started to turn on him... When heckled by the crowd he stated that he and his office really didn't know anything about the proposed school but if the congressmen wanted to comment he would. [Marine Park Civic Association President Greg] Borruso destroyed weiners office saying 'that if the congressman would show up occasionally he would know exactly what's going on.' Poor kid walked right into that one.")

As this clip shows, the crowd gave HLA Principal Maureen Gonzalez-Campbell a hard time, particularly a minute and a half in, when she says she's "confident we can find common ground," and shortly thereafter, when she refers to the lottery for student placement, which provokes roars of "Where?" The crowd seems mainly incensed by the housing issue, though they also opposed the presence of a Spanish translator -- "The crowd didn't like that at all," says GerritsenBeach.net, "and berated her to speak in English."

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