COMPLETE VIDEO: 147th CityLaw Breakfast with SCA President Lorraine Grillo

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School hosted the 147th CityLaw Breakfast. The event speaker was the President of the School Construction Authority Lorraine Grillo.

Ross Sandler, Professor and Director of the Center for City Law, introduced Lorraine Grillo by saying the purpose of this breakfast was “to highlight someone doing really important work in government.” The School Construction Authority (“SCA”) builds the City’s schools. Grillo has been with the agency for 24 years, and the President of the agency for 7 years.

Lorraine Grillo began her speech by recounting the purpose and history of the School Construction Authority. The agency was created in 1988 to quickly build much-need schools. Grillo joined the agency in 1994 and recalled the energy her colleagues put into their work—“Titles did not matter. Everyone did what needed to be done.” The general purpose of the SCA remains building schools that are clean, safe, and modern. Currently, the SCA oversees 1,300 existing buildings that serve 1.1 million children. The average age of buildings under SCA purview is 70 years old, so the SCA is always busy making capital improvements to these buildings. Grillo stated that the SCA prioritizes construction needs based on immediacy over projected needs. The SCA has been making much-needed capital improvements in schools, such as upgrading bathrooms and science labs, and has plans to complete 3,000 capital improvements in 5 years.

Lorraine Grillo believes the SCA’s biggest accomplishment has been their support for Universal Pre-K. The SCA has built new schools and created over thousands of school seats to implement Mayor de Blasio’s key policy. Grillo also praised the de Blasio administration for continuing and surpassing investments put into schools by the Bloomberg administration.

Grillo says that the SCA is a model agency for the entire City. They negotiated the first project labor agreement. They have the finest MWBE program. They have engaged in numerous public-private partnerships. Grillo cited the SCA’s relationship with the Educational Construction Fund as a successful example. The agency has not missed a deadline for a new school in 20 years.

During the question and answer session, Grillo reinforced the SCA’s priority to improve the quality of schools and thus communities. In response to a question about eminent domain, Grillo stated that it is SCA policy to not condemn active businesses, homes, or houses of worship. The SCA will only use eminent domain when the property is up for sale and the local Council Member supports the action.

Grillo was asked about the interior quality of school buildings. She stated that it is SCA policy to not have classrooms in cellars. She spoke to the efforts the Department of Environmental Protection is making to replace pipes, and said that once lead is detected in school water, that pipe is immediately shut off.

In response to a question on physical education, Grillo stated, “It is the focus of City Hall to find gym space for children.” The Mayor has given SCA a mandate to find gym space in existing schools that do not have adequate gyms. Current SCA policy requires all new schools to be built with adequate gym facilities.

Grillo was asked why it takes so long to get rid of trailers in schools. She said this administration has already removed 148 out of 350 trailers from schools, but also is focusing on not displacing students who relied on this space.

Grillo also spoke to the careful planning the SCA relies on. She stated that the SCA will not make investments in untried systems. Professor Sandler closed out the breakfast by praising the beautiful architecture of the SCA school buildings. This attention to planning greatly improves the quality of student life.

The Center for CityLaw thanks our special sponsors for this breakfast: Davidhoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, Ashnu International Inc., and AI Engineers, Inc.

To watch the complete video, click here.

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