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Queens Chronicle

CoJo wants more elite high schools in NYC

Speaker talks city issues at Korean roundtable in Bayside; Amazon is one

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:56 pm, Thu Feb 14, 2019.

More specialized high schools should be built, according to City Council Speaker and Acting Public Advocate Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan).

The lawmaker said so last Thursday at a roundtable with Korean community leaders and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) at Korean Community Services’ headquarters in Bayside.

Mayor de Blasio has proposed abolishing the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which is used as the sole criterion for admissions into the eight elite schools, in an effort to make their student bodies more demographically representative of the city’s overall one for public schools.

Last year, 51.7 percent of offers to the specialized schools went to Asians and 26.5 percent of them went to whites. African American students only got 4.1 percent of them and Latinos just 6.3 percent.

The mayor’s plan set off an explosion of anger and protests in northeast Queens and other parts of the city with high Asian populations. Defenders of the SHSAT charged that City Hall was pushing a plan that was dividing the city’s ethnic groups.

Johnson, who last week announced he’s weighing a possible mayoral campaign in 2021, blasted de Blasio’s proposal, saying it was “rolled out” in a way that was not “productive.”

“I think what we need to do is, we can recognize that there still is deep segregation in schools across New York City, where there aren’t enough African-American and Latino students who are getting the opportunities they deserve,” said Johnson. “But you can do that in a way that doesn’t sort of pit communities against each other.”

He suggested a variety of policies to help solve the racial disparity at the specialized schools: improving middle schools; implementing school desegregation plans; more Gifted and Talented programs; increasing SHSAT prep; and creating “more specialized high schools, not just the number that we have now.”

Other city leaders have called for building more of the specialized institutions. One of the most vocal ones has been Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), who sits on the Education Committee.

Vallone meets regularly with the roundtable of Korean leaders, and Johnson had agreed earlier in his term to attend one of their discussions, they said last Thursday.

The speaker, whose biological father was half-Korean and born in Seoul, joked that he is probably the only Irish-Korean elected official in New York.

Johnson and Vallone heard a range of concerns from the leaders at the meeting, which included Korean American Association of Greater New York President Minsun Kim and Korean American Association of Queens President Thomas Kim.

One of them was the city’s aggressive fining of Korean-owned small businesses for technical code violations.

Johnson said the Council could “make sure that local government is not nickel-and-diming and fining small businesses in ways that are unnecessary” and worsen their disadvantage against larger companies.

Another issue that came up was the lack of Korean-speaking employees at the city Administration for Children’s Services, a fact that Vallone and Johnson said was shameful. Both said they would work to fix the issue.

Kim of KAAGNY said her group would like to celebrate the centennial of the March 1st Movement, a historic demonstration in Korea against rule by Imperial Japan, at City Hall.

Johnson said he would be happy to celebrate the movement and pass a resolution honoring it, but that events at City Hall are never done “for organizations” as a matter of policy.

“If we wanted to do a sort of broader celebration, if we wanted to recognize this during a Lunar New Year celebration, if we wanted to do it for the Autumn Festival, if we wanted to make it part of that, that’s possible,” the speaker explained. “But our lawyers tell us at the City Council that we can’t set the precedent of saying one organization can come in to use City Hall for an event. Because if we did that, we would get dozens of organizations every year that would have that expectation.”

Amazon’s planned HQ2 facility in Long Island City also came up at last Thursday’s meeting.

Johnson praised Vallone, who heads the Committee on Economic Development, for chairing the first Council hearing about the project.

The speaker has been critical of the deal Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio made with Amazon. The e-commerce behemoth, whose CEO is the richest man on Earth, is set to get $3 billion in incentives from New York.

Speaking at the roundtable last week, the speaker said those funds would be better used to help fix the troubled MTA or improve deteriorating NYCHA housing.

According to The New York Times, Johnson asked Amazon Vice President for Public Policy Brian Huseman at a Council hearing last week if Amazon would remain neutral if employees tried to unionize. Huseman said the company wouldn’t.

Johnson said he hopes New York’s deal with Amazon changes.

“We’ve been able to put public pressure on them,” he said. “So, I think the public pressure that’s being brought to bear may result in, hopefully, the mayor and the governor getting some greater concessions out of them before they come here. I don’t think the deal is a done deal.”

The speaker brought up how the project will need the approval of the Public Authorities Control Board, a state government panel on which the state Assembly and Senate are represented.

The Times reported on Monday that state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) was appointed to the panel by Democrats in his chamber. The PACB has three voting members, and any one of them would be capable of stopping a proposal before the board.

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  • WonderBread posted at 4:26 pm on Mon, Feb 11, 2019.

    WonderBread Posts: 19

    What the hell is a "CoJo"? His name is Corey Johnson. Can we please stop with the idiotic nicknames.

  • pvrjr posted at 9:03 am on Sat, Feb 9, 2019.

    pvrjr Posts: 278

    Of course that the MTA is a hutbuttoned issue for all of us to this day. [beam]