Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Annex grows in Brooklyn -- with alot of hoopla

There's no relief in sight from the residential building boom that is overtaking so many neighborhoods – and the capacity of the local schools to deal with all the extra students. According to the Daily News, last month saw an astonishing 17,128 new building permits.

The June [building] permits were more than four times as many as in May, and as in June 2007 as well. They amount to more than half the 31,918 permits issued in all of 2007, and bring this year's total to 26,851. “

To make things worse, only 11,000 new school seats have been created in NYC over the last four years, with the DOE and the School Construction Authority asleep at the wheel.

Schools such as PS 116 in District 2 are so overcrowded that Kindergarten class sizes have swelled to 28. (See this letter to Chancellor Klein from Congresswoman Maloney, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Comptroller Bill Thompson and a large contingent of other state and city electeds. See also this report of a recent meeting with Tweed officials about the crisis of school overcrowding in District 2 in Manhattan, and this rally, where despite the claims the claims of Deputy Mayor Walcott that 3100 seats have been created, only 143 seats have actually been built.)

Meanwhile, what seems the entire city government shows up at press event to announce an annex to PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights. From the DOE press release:

At the announcement, Chancellor Klein was joined by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier, SCA President Sharon Greenberger, Department of City Planning Director Purnima Kapur, PS 8 Principal Seth Phillips, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilman David Yassky, State Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Senator Martin Connor, PTA co-President Tim Eldridge, Superintendent James Machen, PS 8 Assistant Principal Robert Mikos, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe Chan, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Deputy Director Nancy Webster, and Community Education Council representatives for School District 13.

Wow! Never have so many high level city officials come together to announce what? An annex for an elementary school? You would think that we were all living in a town of 20,000 somewhere in Kansas.

One wonders why they didn’t fly in President Bush, Al Sharpton, Bill Gates, the Rockettes, and the entire 32nd armored division of the Marine Corps for the occasion.

Conveniently missing from the press release is the information that the annex will hold only 150 students and won’t be ready, at the absolute soonest, until 2011.

This really represents small potatoes in a school system of over one million students, with such extreme levels of overcrowding and such huge class sizes – and a state mandate to reduce them sharply over the next four years.

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