Bloomberg teaches water conservation in school visit

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After teaching a class of Middle Village second graders about the state’s reservoir system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the city may enter a drought emergency in as little as two weeks if the Catskills do not get any rain.

At a news conference held Tuesday afternoon at Juniper Valley Public School 128, the mayor also reaffirmed his desire to assume control of the city schools and offered his condolences on the loss of Edward Stancik, the special commissioner of investigations for the city schools who died Tuesday of heart failure.

New York City is already in the midst of a drought warning after months of dry and unseasonably warm weather has left the state’s reservoirs at only 50 percent capacity, compared to normal levels of 87.2 percent.

Although the city is now simply asking people to “use water more judiciously,” the mayor said a drought emergency would impose mandatory restrictions on commercial and industrial water usage, including cutbacks of 15 percent, while prohibiting residential activities like washing cars and sidewalks.

Bloomberg said the city will likely enter the first level of drought emergency between two and six weeks from now, depending on how little precipitation falls in the coming days.

“If the water supply in the Catskills doesn’t get any better reasonably quickly, we are going to be in trouble,” Bloomberg said.

He had already illustrated his point by reading “The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks” to 18 second graders. The story depicts a teacher turning her students into raindrops to show them how water travels through the state’s reservoir system.

Precipitation upstate ultimately makes its way to the city via a series of reservoirs and aqueducts, meaning the water supply here is tied directly to the amount of rain or snow that falls in the state’s more mountainous regions.

Bloomberg also took the opportunity to vehemently defend his bid to seize control of the schools out of the hands of the Board of Ed.

“Anybody who thinks that the current system is what we owe our children ought to see a shrink,” he said.

A report published in the Daily News Tuesday indicated that six of the seven Board of Ed members are looking to get rid of Chancellor Harold Levy when his contract expires June 30, but they held back on the decision on the mayor’s request. Only Terri Thomson, the Queens representative to the board, did not favor removing him, the News reported.

Bloomberg said he requested the delay because it would be unproductive to consider Levy’s future at a time when the fate of the entire school system is uncertain. Although the board is required to decide by April 1 if they do not wish to renew the contract, the mayor asked Levy to allow the board to wait until June 1 before making any decisions.

“My expectation is that the Legislature will abolish the Board of Ed and give the mayor control of the school system,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor also said the search has already begun to replace the late Stancik, who was suffering from a lengthy illness before his death Tuesday. Bloomberg praised his contributions to the school system.

“We’re all much better off because of his work,” the mayor said. “He will be sorely missed.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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