« St. Olaf choir 'shines and transforms' | Main | A Good Idea of A Cappella »

February 1, 2006

Choir locked out, sues city

New York Sun (NY):

When the administrative staff of the Boys Choir of Harlem arrives for work this morning, the doors will be locked and security will be forced to turn them away.The Department of Education refused to back down yesterday from its demand to evict the choir from the free space in the Choir Academy of Harlem that it has allowed them to use since 1993. The choir is now faced with the reluctant duty of locating a new home. However, in a desperate last-minute effort, representatives of the choir filed a lawsuit in the Manhattan Supreme Court to stop the eviction.

"We have been talking" with the Boys Choir of Harlem "since last week, over the weekend, and up until we discovered they filed a lawsuit," a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Kelly Devers, said.

In a letter sent December 22, the Department of Education stated the choir would no longer be allowed to use the space and would have to vacate the premises by yesterday's deadline date. The choir's lawsuit was filed on Monday, a day before the deadline.Yet officials with the Department of Education remained firm in their decision to oust the group as planned.

"We can't continue to work with a group that does not have the best interest of the children in mind. We expect them to be out and to drop the lawsuit," Devers said.

The choir contends the Department of Education illegally broke their lease. They claim school officials did not properly notify them of the eviction and they are entitled to stay in the free space until June.

"I thought the negotiations were going in a very positive way," Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat of Manhattan, told the New York Sun. "Deputy Mayor Walcott was orchestrating everything. Now Walcott says that they will not talk further until the choir is removed from the building and they drop the lawsuit."

"The kids did not do anything wrong," Mr. Rangel said. "Adults did this, and the adults should work it out."

The Boys Choir of Harlem is currently facing a $5 million debt that supporters are looking to eradicate. Mr. Rangel and Mayor Dinkins have been instrumental in helping to raise money and awareness for the group's cause. According to a spokeswoman for the choir, Robin Verges, the public attention has had some negative consequences. Police presence at the school has significantly increased, and one female student of the Girls Choir of Harlem was reportedly arrested for assaulting a teacher.

"This has a devastating effect on the kids," Ms.Verges said.

The parents of the students are having a rally this morning at the Choir Academy of Harlem, at Madison Avenue and 127th Street.

Posted by acapnews at February 1, 2006 12:25 AM