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Luxury housing sinks new schools

Development is booming in Brooklyn but city officials believe they can build fewer new schools to handle the influx of additional residents. Speaking at a local Community Education Council (CEC) meeting, a rep for the School Construction Authority (SCA) asserted that the number of school-aged children in the city “peaked” two years ago and will now start to decline, meaning that the city can build fewer new schools than what was originally deemed necessary. All this in spite of the rise in development that is changing the face of Brooklyn, namely the replacement of one-family homes with multi-story condos and the Atlantic Yards development, which would maintain more than 6,000 housing units. “They’re anticipating a population growth in the next 20 years of an additional million [people citywide] but none of them are going to be school-aged children?” questioned Jim Devor, recording secretary for District 15’s CEC. “I have no idea what that’s based on,” Mary-Powel Thomas, president of District 15’s CEC, said of the projections. “At P.S. 261, they have gotten a lot more zoned students this year and they think it’s because of all the new construction.” Fred Maley, the SCA’s community relations manager, acknowledged that many Brooklynites are having a hard time believing the city’s claims. “Community after community is questioning the projections,” he said. But he said that the expected decline in the number of city schoolchildren could be attributed to baby boomer’s kids going off to college. “It’s based on population trends that we project out,” Maley said of decisions about where to build new schools. “There will not be as many new schools needed as was projected two years ago.” Brooklyn’s building boom is having another adverse effect on the city’s plan to build new schools. Maley said some projects were abandoned because construction companies are in such demand to build new condos and homes that they are asking for inflated fees to build new schools, which the city simply can’t afford. “We had to reevaluate some of the projects,” Maley said. “If they were too much over our estimate, we couldn’t move forward.” As a result, “There are new schools coming but there are not as many as we would have liked,” he continued. Maley noted that the $13.1 billion in city and state funding that is being used to build new schools and pay for repairs to existing ones can’t cover all necessary construction projects. “It sounds like a lot,” he said of the billions “but when there’s 1,400 schools in New York City, there’s not enough to go around.” Two new schools are planned for District 15. Locations for the schools have yet to be secured but one is expected to be housed in Atlantic Yards and serve the children residing in the super-sized development. Other school construction projects are planned for District 15, which includes Red Hook, Park Slope and Sunset Park. According to the latest version of the city Department of Education’s (DOE) capital plan, which is located online at source.nycsca.org/pdf/11_06_plan_amendment_comprehensive_region_base.pdf and must be approved by the City Council, several schools are slated to receive repairs and upgrades. They include a new science lab for the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, 284 Baltic Street, and new telephone and intercom systems for several schools, including P.S. 10 at 511 Seventh Avenue and P.S. 24 at 427 38th Street. But left off the list was a barrier free playground for P.S. 10. As a barrier free school, P.S. 10 is handicapped accessible but its playground is not. “A third of their children are disabled in one way or another and they can’t use the playground. We think that’s a serious problem,” Thomas said. The CEC will ask that the playground upgrade be added to the capital plan later this month.

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