I am writing in response to Bob Friedrich’s Nov. 8-14 column “P-Tech program will serve as boon to Martin Van Buren.” In his column, Friedrich advocates for the city Department of Education’s proposal to co-locate the P-Tech program at Martin Van Buren High School while at the same time attacking my integrity for opposing the co-location.

Since taking office three years ago, I made the restoration of MVB’s past pre-eminence one of my top education priorities and strongly pushed to have new leadership installed at the school. Since Principal Sam Sochet took over, he has been working hard to revitalize the school, including forging a partnership last year with Long Island Jewish Hospital to bring a pre-med program to the school.

As part of these efforts, I helped set up a community council with Sochet, elected officials and various civic leaders from the surrounding community. The group would meet every few months to discuss issues involving MVB and the community. Unfortunately, Friedrich has not attended a single meeting.

A lot of Friedrich’s advocacy for the co-location hinges on the mistaken belief that students from within Community School District 26 will be solely able to attend this specialized program. Nothing can be further from the truth. This program, as is standard DOE policy, will allow students from all over the city to attend. The MVB student population will be halved, adding to the overcrowding situation in all the other northeast and eastern Queens high schools.

Friedrich alleged in his column that I am only opposing this plan because I took direction from the United Federation of Teachers. He also commented that I refused to shake his hand at the MVB public hearing on the proposal.

Most of your readers know I am someone who will always do what I think is right, regardless of any political considerations. I guess Friedrich does not know me as well as others. The fact that the UFT opposes the co-location is a credit to the union and has nothing to do with my position on the matter. I am sure that if the UFT agreed with Friedrich, he would be singing their praises.

He is correct in reporting that I did not shake his hand. What he did not report is that before this incident occurred he had already attacked my integrity for opposing the co-location. That is why I did not shake his hand. I am not a phony politician who allows his integrity to be attacked by someone one minute, then shakes that person’s hand the next.

What is lost in this back and forth is the fact that this proposed co-location will have real world consequences for the entire school community, especially students and teachers. Therefore, it is important to note, despite Friedrich’s contentions, that parents, students, teachers and elected officials are united in opposition to the co-location and any decision on this matter should be held until the new mayoral administration takes office.

Tony Avella

State Senator


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