After 6 months of waiting for the DeBlasio administration to create and pass the new NYC budget, we are happy to report that as part of the DOE’s next 5-year capital plan, 2 new elementary schools have been approved and funded for the sub-districts that include Downtown Brooklyn! Thanks in part to our group’s efforts, the city will now build 757 new seats in District 13 (not including the new Dock Street school in DUMBO under construction) and 640 new seats in District 15.
THE BAD NEWS:
However, there is no guarantee that these schools would actually be built in Downtown Brooklyn proper, the funding just stipulates that the school to be located in an area that also includes several nearby neighborhoods. Another issue of concern is that it takes a long time to find a site, plan, and build a school (3-4 years) and the current SCA plan doesn’t see a new school in D15 for at least 5 years from now, and in D13 for at least 8 years down the road. Our discussions with the DOE School Construction Authority have confirmed that they are having difficultly locating suitable sites for new schools across the city in areas that are presently overcrowded. If they wait any longer to actually start looking for land to build a school in or near Downtown Brooklyn, there will be no place to build one.
You can read the response to the letter we sent to the DOE earlier this year. They claim to be “aware and monitoring the situation” but are choosing to prioritize areas with existing overcrowding. Well if the DOE waits for the existing schools in our area to become overcrowded due to the building boom, they will never catch up. In fact it’s been estimated that more than 100,000 new school seats need to be built in NYC to ease overcrowding and to accommodate population growth, yet the next 5-year capital plan only has 38,000 seats and not all of those are actually budgeted in the next 5-year capital plan. That’s a major problem…they need to start making realistic plans for new schools in Downtown Brooklyn and across the city.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE:
On the bright side, the DOE is supposed to update their projections each year and adjust. In the past, these methods have proved flawed. However, State Senator Daniel Squadron (who lives in Brooklyn Heights and is well aware of the overcrowding problem at P.S. 8) sponsored a law that compels the School Construction Authority to use all available population data to create “a more accurate indication of growth trends and school needs in neighborhoods even before new buildings are built, give parents additional tools to fight for what their community needs, and push the School Construction Authority to plan ahead more effectively.” Perhaps when the SCA finally crunches the numbers, they’ll speed up their time table for planning for new schools for the neighborhood. Until that happens, we will continue to pressure officials to take action.