Pfizer, the drug company, is injecting rejection into charter school students in Brooklyn, according to school authorities. Pfizer is expected to post an industry-record $80 billion in revenue for last year, partly largely to sales of its coronavirus vaccine.
Beginning with Children, one of the city’s original charter schools, seeks to build a high school on an empty lot close to its existing middle-school charter school at 11 Bartlett St. in Williamsburg.
“They’ve had a lot of success,” said Joseph Belluck, chairman of the SUNY Charter School Committee, which approved the extension of Beginning With Children’s high school grades.
The elementary school is located at 215 Heyward St., while the middle school is located on Pfizer-owned property.
However, the charter school owners argue that Pfizer is being greedy by refusing to offer or sell the vacant land to the school for growth, despite the fact that Pfizer’s historic history as one of the world’s leading drug makers began at its Brooklyn location.
“Pfizer made commitments to our school, our families, and our community that they haven’t maintained, and they haven’t explained why,” said Lewson Kurz, CEO of the Beginning With Children Foundation.
Pfizer offered to negotiate a purchase of the vacant lot at fair market value, according to a representative for Beggings for Children, but negotiations were terminated in January.
“Their work on the vaccine is commendable, but their failure to involve the community on this piece of abandoned land is perplexing.” Pfizer’s obstinacy is denying Brooklyn youngsters the chance to succeed. “We hope Pfizer reconsiders its position and does the right thing,” Kurz added.
According to representatives for Beginning with Children, Pfizer offered to negotiate a purchase of the vacant lot at fair market value but ended negotiations in January 2020. The vacant land has been the subject of debate since at least 2008.
The property is an abandoned brownfield site where old structures were demolished in order to clean up the environment.
Local political figures in Brooklyn also expressed their displeasure with Pfizer’s inaction on the property’s use and urged them to be good neighbours.
“The Pfizer property [next to] 11 Bartlett St. is currently an unmaintained, fenced-in eyesore that is out of step with the burgeoning area.” Across the city, unused or abandoned properties are being transformed for the benefit of the community. In an Oct. 22, 2021 letter to Pfizer Executive VP Sally Susman that he co-wrote as a councilman, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso claimed, “There are no shortages of individuals who are interested in developing this site beyond what it is currently being used for.”
“It is our understanding that the Pfizer-owned property also limits the development rights of the Charter School next door, so impeding their expansion and growth as well,” Reynoso said, mentioning affordable housing as a possibility.
In a letter co-signed by former Councilman Stephen Levin, Reynoso said, “For years the community fought to support Pfizer while it functioned there; now we are asking Pfizer to work to support the neighbourhood by allowing the land to be developed.”
Pfizer claimed in a statement to The Washington Post that it has been a good neighbour to the community, particularly students. The corporation stated that in 1992, it leased the current facility and property to BWC charter school for $1 per year and later gave them the title for $10.