I have been out of town most of August but got this great post from another parent!
A post from Chris Blake, Parent to a 7th grader
I had the pleasure of joining a small group of Brooklyn Prospect for an hour long of the new school facility on the morning of August 28th led by Executive Director Dan Rubinstein and project architect Dave Briggs of Loci Architecture. The tour was an auction item won at the Gala in May. Dan met us at the café directly across Fort Hamilton Parkway from the school and we chatted for a bit before meeting up with Dave. Dan explained some of the complexities of the construction from a project management perspective. With so many vendors involved, scheduling becomes very important and a planned order of events must be followed. For instance, lockers can’t be installed until walls are painted and since one group of people is painting the walls and another group is installing the lockers, there has to be coordination between the two. With cabinetry and furniture being delivered, air conditioners being installed, wiring being upgraded etc., it can all get a bit hectic.
We met up with Dave inside the building – which I would describe as a very active but orderly construction site. I was immediately impressed with the main entry hall which is wide and airy. Both the front and back doors were open and there was a breeze blowing through. I commented on the hallway flooring which is of polished stone – not vinyl. Most of it was protected with paper but what I could see looked very nice. Dave explained that the building was constructed in 1968 and that the walls are cinderblock – which presents some challenges in terms of running electrical conduit and plumbing.
We proceeded down a hallway to the right, which is lined with brand new very high quality looking lockers, and entered a classroom. This one and all the others we entered is large and bright with a wall of windows. Dave explained the color scheme though I can’t recall the details. I was too busy checking out the air conditioner. Each classroom is equipped with a big Friederich air conditioner that looks powerful enough to freeze a side of beef. This particular classroom was a science room and had plumbing. The sinks and cabinetry weren’t installed yet but they were sitting in the middle of the room and looked to be of high quality.
We then proceeded to the third floor via the elevator. Again – the walls are lined with lockers and the classrooms are all big and sunny. We didn’t go into every classroom as they’re all more or less the same. We did check out the Middle School principal’s office suite though. It has a nice view of the roof of gymnasium. Dave mentioned that one possibility is to turn it into a green roof – though that’s beyond the scope of the current renovation.
From there we went to the second floor and had a look at what will be the library. Its nice and big – and has some folding panels that allow it to be partitioned off on one side, though we didn’t discuss them or how they might be used. A door off the library leads to one of two enormous mechanical rooms. Dave said that the mechanical rooms are way oversized for modern equipment and that if the building’s mechanicals are upgraded in the future a lot of that space could be reclaimed for other uses. I commented on the wall mounted wi-fi router in the library and Dan told us a bit about the data wiring – which has significant capacity and should be super fast.
We checked out one of the second floor boy’s bathrooms which features three urinals, two toilet stalls and two sinks. Dan pointed out the newly installed hand dryer which obviates the need for paper towels (which can get all over the floor). The sinks all have sensor faucets so no one’ll be able to leave the faucet running. Dave mentioned that the toilet stalls will be painted and the floors will be cleaned and polished. I checked to see if the stalls have locks – and they do.
The next stop was the bottom floor – which is a bit below street level. There’s a spacious office suite which will house administrative offices including that of the executive director. The Director’s office is strategically located with a view of the courtyard. The cafeteria is also on this floor. I believe Dan said it has a capacity of 250 people or so. We didn’t get to see the furniture but Dave gave us a good description. There will be large round tables in the middle and smaller care style table along the perimeter. Dan talked about the food service provider and the process the school went through for choosing them. One thing I noticed in the cafeteria was the newly installed water fountain which has a special spout for filling water bottles and dispenses chilled filtered water. The gym has one of these also. We took a look at the big kitchen – which is pretty empty at the moment. Dan talked about the possibility of installing commercial kitchen equipment at some point – which would allow the facility to be rented out for various purposes. That’s not in the plans at this point though as it would be a big undertaking. One cool thing about the cafeteria is that you can access the courtyard from it – so it would be possible to set up outdoor tables for dining on nice days. Right now the courtyard is not very inviting as its all concrete and features strange concrete seating that collects water. Dave is working on some design ideas though and there will be some changes. Dave told us that the church must approve any changes so there will have to be a process to follow. Brooklyn Prospect can’t just make its own decisions about how the courtyard will look. Dan pointed out that the church has been extremely supportive and cooperative.
Next stop was the gymnasium which has basketball courts and a stage at one end. Its well lit and has a ventilation system – but no air conditioning. The gym was being used as a staging area for cabinetry, furniture and equipment awaiting installation. The church continues to use the gym at various times. Dan mentioned specifically that a Boy Scout troop meets there.
The last stop was the rear parking lot. It was chock full of cars at the time. Dave said that most of the lot will become play space but that the school will continue providing parking for the approximately 8 nuns who reside in the 4th floor convent. We discussed the possibility of installing an Astroturf playing field in the future – which would require additional funding. Dave made the point that the lot is visible from the street (whereas the interior of the building is not) and so it represents a good opportunity for Brooklyn Prospect to show itself to the community which lost a beloved institution when the Immaculate Heart of Mary School closed.
In all, my impressions of the building and the improvements being made are quite positive. The space is large, inviting, rational and airy. It has good flow, wide hallways, adequate bathrooms. One thing that impressed me is that though the current renovation project is coming to an end, there is quite a bit of opportunity (and will) to make future improvements – like the green roof project, installation of an astroturf playing field, upgrading of the courtyard etc. I think the Brooklyn Prospect community is very fortunate to have found the building and to have leadership with imagination and vision. The building is definitely not ready to receive students yet but Dave assured us that it’ll be ready for the first day of school – though there may be a bit of punch list work still going on outside of school hours.
I was only one of a handful of parents on the tour and perhaps I paid more attention to certain details than the others did. Sorry if I left anything out. I’m also sorry I don’t have any pictures to share. I’d be happy to answer any questions posted to the blog.