The Problem with P.S. 8 5

IMG_1221_ps8_Much has been made of the successful turnaround story of P.S. 8 The Robert Fulton School in Brooklyn Heights.  P.S. 8’s sprawling school zone draws from across Brooklyn Heights, parts of Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, to the Navy Yard. The once failing school was avoided by the residents of the nearby brownstones, yet under the leadership of the new principal, Seth Phillips, test scores soared and the school doubled enrollment in 6 years.  By 2010, it was over capacity due to high demand. Even with the addition of an 18,000 square foot annex in 2011, the school was at 109% capacity in the 2011-12 school year.

While this now high performing school is often held up as a model of what can happen if a dedicated principal works hard to turn the school around, and the neighborhood parents join together to send their kids there en masse and support the school with strong PTA, P.S. 8 is also product of another powerful force that was at work at the same time as all this was happening: real estate.

Since 2005, DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights have become some of the most sought after zipcodes in the whole city and thousands of people have moved there (no doubt being zoned for P.S. 8 helped fuel their desirability.) As a result rents and sale prices now rival much of Manhattan.

By our calculation, more than 2500 residential units have been built in the P.S. 8 zone in the last 7 years. 800 more are in the works and will be built in the next 4 years. By the city’s own calculation methods, they should have planned to accomodate nearly 950 new elementary school-aged children at P.S. 8. by 2017. Here is a map of the the new, planned, and possible development in the zone:

View Residential Development Affecting P.S. 8 in a larger map.

The biggest wildcard is the highly anticipated (but as of yet unplanned for) departure of the Jehovah’s Witness’s Watchtower organization from the area. They have announced that they are decamping from Brooklyn to build a campus near Monroe, NY. They own dozens of buildings in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights (some of them massive), in addition to a huge undeveloped full block parcel in DUMBO.  After they unload all their properties, (they’ve been selling off parcels in small batches for the last couple of years) make way for thousands more new residents.

Where will these new residents send their kids to elementary school?
Not P.S. 8, because it is already full.

We expect that a contentious rezoning of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (much like what happened recently in Park Slope) is eminent; and the building boom taking place in Downtown Brooklyn will likely come into to the mix. There is not enough existing capacity in the western side of District 13 to absorb all of the new residents who want to and send their kids to public schools.

It is time for NYC Dept of Planning and the School Construction Authority to start planning for this inevitability and BUILD NEW SCHOOLS!

Here are few links to learn more:

Please sign our petition to get the DoE and Dept. of Planning to start looking long and hard at the school situation here.