It is there in black and white: New York City public schools cannot be named after living people, according to the chancellor’s regulations, the set of rules and policies governing the city’s school system.
But the regulations say nothing about naming entire school campuses — like a cluster of schools offset by lush greenery — for those who are still alive. Or, for that matter, for those who are living, breathing politicians gearing up for contested re-election campaigns.
And so, Monday morning, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced that a campus of schools in eastern Queens — previously known as the Glen Oaks Campus, and once home to the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center — would be named after Frank Padavan, a longtime Republican state senator from Queens who is being challenged for re-election by James F. Gennaro, a Democratic city councilman.
Mr. Klein, at a morning news conference on Monday, called the naming a “unique situation,” saying that the campus, which was years in the making and involved, among other things, the transfer of state-owned land to the city, “came into being because of the extraordinary work of Senator Padavan.”
“I’d be happy if other people throughout the city could develop options for us like this, be happy to name campuses,” he said. “I think it sends a signal that when you do unique work you get recognition for it.”
Mr. Klein was also quick to note the distinction between school and campus, saying, “We don’t name buildings.”
But Democratic politicians scoffed at the distinction, calling the naming ceremony a political act intended to give Mr. Padavan an edge in an election in which Republican control of the State Senate is considered critical to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s agenda. Earlier this year, the mayor angered Democratic lawmakers by writing a $500,000 check to the Senate Republicans, even though he has left the Republican Party and is now an independent.
Robert Jackson, chairman of the City Council Education Committee, said that if Mr. Padavan worked hard to create new schools for his constituents, well, that was his job.
“Smells political to me,” Mr. Jackson said. “Just say that you’re doing it for political purposes, in order to support the Republican Party, in order to keep their majority in the State Senate. Just say that.”
Mr. Jackson called the distinction between school and education campus “ridiculous,” saying, “Give me a break.”
Mr. Gennaro said he was “absolutely incredulous” to hear that the campus was being named for his opponent.
“It’s no secret that the mayor is the No. 1 supporter of the Republican majority, which he’s more than free to do with his own money,” Mr. Gennaro said in a telephone interview. “But when he starts naming city infrastructure after sitting elected officials to try to ensure or at least assist the Republican majority, then that is so over the line as to be completely outrageous and totally disgraceful.”
He called the distinction between school and campus “absurd,” saying, “If you’re naming a star, there’s standards, but if you’re naming a whole galaxy that’s O.K.?”
Mr. Padavan said he had worked to create schools on the former grounds of the Creedmoor center since 1998, when he proposed the idea to Rudy Crew, then the schools chancellor. The campus now includes three schools: two kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools called Public School-Intermediate Schools 266 and 208, and a high school, the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences.
Mr. Padavan described himself as the city’s “go-to guy in Albany” who helped secure billions of dollars for the city schools. Asked whether he thought the campus naming was intended to give the Senate Republicans an edge in the election, he said, “We don’t need an edge.”
“If you traveled around my district, I’d take you to Padavan Field, Padavan Way, Padavan Pavilion and a whole bunch of other places that have my name on them,” he said. “I’m grateful for all these organizations and entities who have put my name up on something that they were grateful to get.”NY1 NEWS VIDEO
ANOTHER ARTICLE ABOUT THE NAMING