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UPDATE: New video of Bill Bray and Tormel Pittman’s shouting match is below.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – On Wednesday, the City of New Brunswick released the only video of the December 7 public shouting match between city activist Tormel Pittman, and Bill Bray, the Mayor’s spokesman who left the administration two days later.
Knowing Friday would be his last day, Bray rambled on in response to a simple question asked by Pittman at the City Council meeting: Who’s idea was it to house school students in a warehouse building on Van Dyke Avenue?
Students of the Redshaw Elementary have been in the school since 2005, far longer than the 18 months originally predicted. Bray explains the city’s side of the story, at great length (emphasis added):
In 1999, in the wake of the State Supreme Court decision ordering the state to build new and renovate school buildings and facilities in the so-called Abbott districts, the Board of Education developed a comprehensive plan for reconstruction and renovation of all of its school facilities.
That plan, as it moved forward, was derailed by the mismanagement by the state of the monies that the state legislature approved for the Abbott districts.
Approximately $12 billion was approved: $8 billion for Abbot districts, the remainder of the money for other districts in the state. The state took possession of Redshaw School. The state hired the contractor to knock down Redshaw school. The state ordered– Actually, I missed a step. Prior to the demolition of that building, the state ordered New Brunswick Public Schools to vacate the Paul Robeson Community School and the Redshaw Elementary School.
The space that the state wanted to originally put those students in was an existing warehouse facility in Piscataway. Mayor Cahill and the Board of Education were able to develop a plan to house them in a brand new building that has never been used for anything else but the school facilities on Van Dyke Ave.
And they were so-called “the swing space schools” because the plan called for, as the construction was rolled out, managed by the state, funded by the state, that our students would “swing into” and “swing out of” the swing space school because each school project would take approximately 18 months from start to finish.
So we depopulated those two schools, then the state said– They knocked down the Redshaw School. Then they said “Oops, we’re out of money.”
The city applied to the state Dept. of Edcuation to re-populate Robeson School which allowed us to bring those students back into their neighborhoods and also save significant amounts of money from transporting those students, bussing the kids across town unnecessary. Unfortunately, because Redshaw School was knocked down by the state, by its contractor, we were ordered out, to de-populate it, that site obviously has not been able to be re-occupied.
However, since then, our project that we did have control of, the demonstration project, which was one of six statewide, that were created by the state as part of the $12 billion funding, modeled after our successful redevelopment project of the Lord Stirling School on George St. The state recognized the brilliance of our plan to build school facilities and wanted to see if it could be replicated statewide, and it was in six instances and in all of those projects they were built on-time and on-budget.
Perhaps referring to the “brilliance” of New Brunswick’s failing public school system irked Council President Robert Recine, who serves as the liason to the city’s Board of Education. At any rate, Recine attempted to stop Bray and move on with the meeting, as he was clearly getting off-topic. In a surprisingly disrespectful move, Bray didn’t back down and jumped right back into his speech.
Well, no no, I just– I REALLY like the opportunity to COMPLETELY educate the people.
So the swing space school, we can’t — We were able to bring the Middle School out of one of the school facilities because when we built the new high school, we were then able to renovate the old high school ahead of schedule, populate that earlier than we had thought. So we’re only using one of the swing space schools.
But if you go into the school, it does not resemble in any way, shape, or form a warehouse facility.
Recine eventually jumped in and shut him up, but not before Bray could sneak in one last argument in defense of the warehouse school: “No, but it’s got carpet!” he shouted.
Pittman then took the floor and said Bray did sort of answer his question, and then cited former Gov. Jon Corzine as at fault for the failure.
Bray proceeded to interrupt Pittman before he could finish his sentence and, for some odd reason, defended the disgraced ex-Governor: “Well, it goes before Corzine,” he retorted.
Pittman summed up Bray’s remarks with what he felt was the answer to his original question, “And he ultimately said it was Mayor Cahill’s idea to put them in a warehouse.”
Bray became enraged and continued to shout down Pittman, “Don’t put words in my mouth!” he yelled, as Recine yelled back at Bray to shut up.
“Mr. Bray! Enough!” Recine shouted. As Pittman and Bray continued to go back and forth, ignoring Recine’s calls for order, the Council President entertained a motion to adjourn and gaveled the meeting to a close.
Pittman continued shouting as the meeting was adjourned, saying the warehouse school makes for a poor learning environment.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.