We’re thrilled that Councilman Steve Levin is spearheading a task force to finally address the impact of all the residential development in the area on local schools. The first meeting of the Downtown Brooklyn School Planning Working Group (DBSPWG) was convened on May 28th and in attendance were many major players including state and local politicians, DOE and school reps, members of the District 13 Community Education Council, and several public advocacy groups, including DoBro School Solutions. The Brooklyn Heights Blog has full coverage of that meeting. At the second meeting on June 25th, additional stakeholders (including some from D15) were on hand and sub-committees got down to work.
There are many facets to this very complicated issue, but here are the four most pressing concerns that the DBSPWG is tackling:
- REZONING: P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights is overcrowded and the DOE is in the process of formulating a rezoning proposal that will impact residents of several neighborhoods including Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, and Vinegar Hill. The plan will likely alter the zones of several area schools, including P.S. 8, P.S. 307, and P.S. 287 (and possibly others.) The sub-committee’s goal is to work with the CEC to submit a counter-proposal to the DOE that is acceptable to ALL the stakeholders in our area and alleviate overcrowding at P.S. 8 (and avoid another waitlist.) The rezoning will be implemented before the 2016-17 kindergarten application period this winter. The group remains aware of the fact that this is a contentious issue that will affect a lot of families.
- NEW CAPACITY: Building new capacity (i.e., new schools) in Downtown Brooklyn must happen sooner or later to meet the demand created by the current building boom, which if unaddressed will eventually lead to further overcrowding. A sub-committee is locating potential sites for a new school (or schools) and reaching out to developers about including schools in their new projects. We heard at the meeting that the School Construction Authority is currently working with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to include up-to-date ‘housing starts’ in their planning process which means that they are hopefully taking the issue seriously.
- IMPROVING CAPACITY AT EXISTING SCHOOLS: While it is yet to be determined which schools will gain zoned students as a part of the P.S. 8 rezoning plan, there are several schools near Downtown Brooklyn that have available seats. Some of these schools are perceived as flying under the radar or undesirable for a variety of reasons. The goal of this sub-committee is to work with these schools to raise their profile and share all the great things they have to offer with families considering their various options for kindergarten in the coming years.
- DATA: Informing all of the DBSPWG sub-committees is the collection and presentation of data that will help in understanding the current and future school enrollment picture. The DOE has been mostly unwilling to share their planning data with the working group so we’ve gone about using publicly available enrollment numbers and census data combined with the data we’ve tabulated on our website regarding the number of new apartments built, under construction, and in planning stages in Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.
We’re excited that the effort is picking up momentum and hopefully the city will finally start planning for new schools in the area in next year’s capital plan and budget! Please contact us if you want to get involved with the effort.