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  March 25, 2002

New Life for Tweed, New Opportunities for New York's Children
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The "Tweed Courthouse," the building directly behind City Hall, takes its name from the infamous "Boss" Tweed, who was chairman of the City Board of Supervisors back in the 1860s. "Boss" Tweed used the construction of the courthouse to line the pockets of his friends and supporters by vastly inflating the cost of the building materials that were used. It is a beautiful building, but it hasn't been used as a courthouse since the 1920s. For most of its life, it has had to endure a sad reputation as an empty monument to corruption and waste.

Last week, I declared my intention to give the Tweed Courthouse a new purpose, one that truly befits its majestic appearance. I've asked State officials to put responsibility for New York's public school system where it belongs: with the Mayor. When that happens, and I'm confident that it will, I intend to make the Tweed Courthouse the headquarters of the new City Department of Education. I am also advocating that a public school be established on the ground floor of the Courthouse. That way, administrators of the school system who work there will be reminded each day of their mission to improve the education of New York City's children.

We have to change the way we run our public schools. The current central Board of Education, with its enormous bureaucracy housed at 110 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, promotes diffused, confused and overlapping layers of authority. It lets City officials duck responsibility for the school system's dismal record of failure in educating our children.

President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read: The Buck Stops Here. And I'll send exactly the same message by relocating the administration of the City's school system right next door to the Mayor's Office. Putting the City's new Department of Education close to the Mayor, even closer than Police Headquarters at One Police Plaza, will demonstrate how important education really is to all New Yorkers.

The previous City Administration deserves enormous credit for rescuing the Tweed Courthouse from the disgraceful state of disrepair that it was in. Their intention was to make the building a new home for the Museum of the City of New York, which is located on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. However, paying for the museum's move downtown would have cost the City some $18 million. I support the Museum, and I will certainly help it raise money for finding a new home. But given the City's current fiscal crisis, there are far more important ways to spend 18 million of your tax dollars-and topping the list is the education of our children.

Last week, a reporter asked former Schools Chancellor Frank Macchiarola what he thought of my idea. Dr. Macchiarola said that moving the headquarters of the public school system to a building as impressive as the Tweed Courthouse "sends the public the message 'this is what we value.'" I couldn't agree with him more.