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De-fence! Facing tough opposition, Poly Prep withdraws plan to privatize piece of dead-end street

Brooklyn Daily
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Officials at a Bay Ridge prep school shockingly withdrew their request to takeover a section of a dead-end street that they say is rife with crime and prostitution during a tense Community Board 10 committee meeting on Wednesday night, bowing to community pressure over the plan that would have taken away valuable parking spaces from residents.

Poly Prep Country Day School was seeking to lease from the city a 185-foot section of Battery Avenue between Fort Hill Place and the Fort Hamilton Army Base, claiming it is a den of drug dealing, prostitution, and drinking that couldn’t be contained by police and was a threat to national security.

The school planned to fence off the space, freeing up police from patrolling it, and making sure drugs aren’t sold through the fence to American soldiers. Residents, on the other hand, claimed the school just wanted to privatize a public space so it would have a convenient place to park buses when visiting teams come to play football on the school’s nearby field.

So on Wednesday, Poly Prep associate headmaster Steven Anderson was grilled and prodded by local officials — and heckled by residents — as he defended the proposal for nearly an hour before finally rising from his seat and bowing to their demands, telling the crowd that he would not seek to block off the street.

“We’re going to withdraw the application,” Anderson said, to cheers from the crowd, which included roughly 75 people who spilled into the hallway at CB10’s office on Fifth Avenue between 81st and 82nd streets — from small children with hand-painted protest signs to irate elderly neighbors. “We’ve made a mistake here.”

The reversal was a strange twist to a bizarre tale about a school’s attempts to reel in out of control crime that no one else — not even police — say existed.

Anderson and Vincent Ruteulo, the school’s head of security, stood by their claims that the remote section of the dead-end street abutting the Army base and the school was a haven for pot smoking and prostitution, as did other school workers who live on the block.

“I wake up some nights in the middle of the night and there are people having sex on top of a car,” said Gaudenico Amdraede, a school employee who lives on the block in a house paid for by Poly Prep.

But many dispute those claims — and neighbors were irate over charges that their quiet residential block was a den of ill repute as they balked at the prospect of losing parking spaces and a safe, traffic-free play space for kids.

“This is the safest block in Bay Ridge,” said Elaine O’Rourke.

One pol agreed.

“Unequivoca­lly, this is not a problem area for the 68th Precinct,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile.

Still others wondered if such an extreme use of the broken window theory was an effective way to combat crime.

“Do you think it’s appropriate to close down streets when there is crime?” CB10 Steve Harrison asked Anderson. “If we followed your model, there would be no public streets.”

Some neighbors were so upset, they demanded an apology form Anderson after he backed down.

“Are you willing to stand up and apologize for these slanderous comments?” Joseph Rizzi, a Battery Avenue resident, asked Anderson, in a tense exchange.

The school’s officials were blind sided by the opposition, and were noticeably tense and defensive when questioned by community board members and local officials.

“We didn’t realize that we were going to walk into this tonight,” Rutuelo admitted after the meeting, adding that he was shocked when his boss suddenly backed down from the crowd. “I was very surprised.”

Residents declared the flip-flop a victory, and some even thanked Anderson after the meeting.

“The school showed class,” said neighbor Mike Masi.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at

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Reader Feedback

tee from sunset park says:
it isn't shocking that they withdrew their request. they hoped to slip it through unnoticed. the only thing their request didn't include was that the take over was to look for weapons of mass destruction.

but it isn't enough that they withdrew their request. the city should put signs up around poly saying that people should be careful when in the area that poly prep is known to attempt to rip-off the community and that visitors should exercise caution.
Nov. 10, 2011, 7:13 am
Maria from Park Slope says:
It is simply stunning that Poly Prep is claiming that soldiers are buying drugs there--stunning! How dare they slander like that to push their own agenda--remarkable!
Nov. 10, 2011, 12:22 pm
resident from bayridge says:
would you like us to report and record what goes behind your gates ?

you have slandered your neighborhood, insulted the nypd and demeaned the heroes/soldiers at fort hamilton.

you and your committee have much to be proud of !
Congratulations! the families of your students must be so proud....if you are the kinds of products/role models that are produced at PP. i say to you thanks, but No, Thanks !
Nov. 10, 2011, 3:43 pm
Maureen from Bay Ridge says:
I'd like to point out that Poly Prep, as a non-profit, pays no real estate or local taxes. The added police to direct traffic during summer camp and football games are paid for by the local residents not the school. To attempt to co-opt additional real estate from the residents is the height of arrogance. This is not the first time the school has attempted to take over Battery Avenue.
Nov. 13, 2011, 2:10 pm
REJ from Park Slope says:
I think Poly Prep should look at their own internal neighborhood and figure out how to keep their kids free from pedophiles. They should focus on preventing crimes against their own student body like that which occurred on their grounds for decades by their football coach - Many young lives destroyed by abuse, many finds solitude in drugs and alcohol abuse. Poly Administration rebuild a reputation for focusing inside your own school walls first before attempting to cleanup the outside.
Dec. 8, 2011, 9:34 am

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