Life for Tweed, New Opportunities for New York’s Children
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Update welcomes a new monthly column by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
“Tweed Courthouse,” the building directly behind City Hall, takes
its name from the infamous “Boss” Tweed, who was chairman of the
City Board of Supervisors back in the 1860s. “Boss” Tweed used
the construction of the courthouse to line the pockets of his
friends and supporters by vastly inflating the cost of the building
materials that were used. It is a beautiful building, but it hasn’t
been used as a courthouse since the 1920s. For most of its life,
it has had to endure a sad reputation as an empty monument to
corruption and waste.
Last week, I declared my intention to give the Tweed Courthouse
a new purpose, one that truly befits its majestic appearance.
I’ve asked State officials to put responsibility for New York’s
public school system where it belongs: with the Mayor. When that
happens, and I’m confident that it will, I intend to make the
Tweed Courthouse the headquarters of the new City Department of
Education. I am also advocating that a public school be established
on the ground floor of the Courthouse. That way, administrators
of the school system who work there will be reminded each day
of their mission to improve the education of New York City’s children.
We have to change the way we run our public schools. The current
central Board of Education, with its enormous bureaucracy housed
at 110 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, promotes diffused, confused
and overlapping layers of authority. It lets City officials duck
responsibility for the school system’s dismal record of failure
in educating our children.
President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read: The Buck
Stops Here. And I’ll send exactly the same message by relocating
the administration of the City’s school system right next door
to the Mayor’s Office. Putting the City’s new Department of Education
close to the Mayor, even closer than Police Headquarters at One
Police Plaza, will demonstrate how important education really
is to all New Yorkers.
The previous City Administration deserves enormous credit for
rescuing the Tweed Courthouse from the disgraceful state of disrepair
that it was in. Their intention was to make the building a new
home for the Museum of the City of New York, which is located
on 5th Ave. at 103rd Street. However, paying for the museum’s
move downtown would have cost the City some $18 million. I support
the Museum, and I will certainly help it raise money for finding
a new home. But given the City’s current fiscal crisis, there
are far more important ways to spend 18 million of your tax dollars—and
topping the list is the education of our children.
Last week, a reporter asked former Schools Chancellor Frank Macchiarola
what he thought of my idea. Dr. Macchiarola said that moving the
headquarters of the public school system to a building as impressive
as the Tweed Courthouse “sends the public the message ‘this is
what we value.’” I couldn’t agree with him more.#
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