From the Daily News:
Students at Merrick Academy charter school - housed in an old bowling alley in Queens Village - must cross busy Jamaica Ave. for recess in a nearby park because there's no gym or playground.
They also must get used to water leaking into classrooms when it rains and wearing winter coats inside when there's no heat.
There's also another potential problem - one many parents may not know about: Merrick has served as a source of campaign funds and patronage for one of its high-profile board members - State Senate President Malcolm Smith.
Smith was one of the founding members of Merrick and was on its board from the time it moved into the alley in 2001 through June 2007, records show.
During that time, the K-6 charter school - run entirely with public money - has written at least three small checks to Smith's campaign.
A state controller's audit in 2006 noted slack fiscal controls and singled out a $140 check written by a school employee to attend the fund-raiser of an unnamed state senator.
The Daily News discovered there were actually three checks - all written out of Merrick's checking accounts - to Smith's campaign: $65 in 2003, $140 in 2004 and another $140 in 2005. At the time, Smith was on the board.
While Smith was on Merrick's board, an architect did "preliminary drawings" regarding turning the bowling alley into a school. That architect also was working on one of Smith's personal properties at the time, records show.
The same architect was also later hired to design a home owned by another Merrick board member and Smith ally, Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks.