NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The activists and residents who oppose the plan to raze Lincoln Annex School and build the state’s first free-standing cancer hospital in its place have apparently found an ally in Al Sharpton.
The nationally known civil rights leader and head of the National Action Network is pledging his “unequivocal support” to those who are seeking to halt a $750 million plan that would also include the construction of a $55 million, state-of-the-art school on Jersey Avenue to replace Lincoln Annex.
RWJBarnabas is picking up the check on the project in which a 12-story cancer pavilion would be built at 165 Somerset Street and connect to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital via skybridges.
A 20-person steering committee composed of community leaders, Lincoln Annex parents, teachers, the school’s principal, a member of the Board of Education and administrators recommended that the district proceed with the deal. In April, the board voted unanimously to move forward with the land swap.
Lincoln Annex, a 60-year-old school that sits on about 1.7 acres, is to be razed in the fall, DEVCO President Chris Paladino told TAPinto New Brunswick.
While the replacement school and hospital are being built, the students would attend classes at the Pathways Campus at 40 Van Dyke Ave., which is home to the students enrolled in the school district’s P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program.
Although Sharpton referred to it as the “New Lincoln Annex,” he nonetheless said the plan to “displace” students is an “outrage.”
“And all of them are students of color, let’s be real candid about that,” said Sharpton in a roughly two-minute video posted on the Facebook page of Defendamos Lincoln Annex on Wednesday. “All of that to merely benefit the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and Rutgers University and their millionaire executives and board members to be able to expand their empire.
“I urge all people of conscious, all people of conscious, to stand with the parents and students and the community and to tell New Brunswick that those in power need to hear and understand our battle cry, Lincoln Annex is not for sale.”
Compared to Lincoln Annex, the new school will offer more space in terms of the cafeteria, multipurpose assembly room, science demonstration room, media center, nurse’s office, main office, student services, computer lab, art room and tech lab. It would also have a gym, which Lincoln Annex does not have.
The design plans for the new school would include up to 18,000 square feet for a playground. Lincoln Annex does not have a playground.
The activists and residents who have held rallies in the city’s streets and spoken out at Board of Education meetings over the past several months say that the children’s educations will suffer by going to the Pathways Campus and it will be inconvenient for parents to attend parent-teacher conferences. They also have noted that the tract at 50 Jersey Ave. needs remediation for radon contamination.
Jimmie Staton, the president of the Lincoln Annex parent group, said at a Board of Education meeting last month that the district should build a replacement school for the crumbling one on Somerset Street that he said looks like a prison.
“Why are we fighting for a building that hasn’t worked for us since we bought it and why are allies fighting to make sure we stay in horrible conditions in this horrible building?” he said.
Sharpton has been an outspoken activist for several causes over the past four decades. Most recently, he called upon the NFL give former quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job and demanded that NASCAR investigate a noose found in driver Bubba Wallace’s garage.
He also recently delivered the eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral.
The Middlesex County Board of Freeholders approved a $25 million grant last month that will not only help fund the project, but allow Middlesex County College and high school students access to its educational facilities.
According to state records, Lincoln Annex was home to 556 students during the 2018-19 school year. About 95% of the students were Hispanic and 3.2% were Black or African American.