Take the $360 million the city will give the Yankees in tax subsidies and exemptions for their new stadium – that amount alone could fund 8-10 new elementary schools or 8 new high schools with 5,000 new seats.
The plaintiffs in the CFE case determined that we needed at least 120,000 new seats to eliminate overcrowding and reduce class size in all grades – not even taking into account any population growth. This new capacity, along with libraries, science labs, and other needed improvements was the basis of the $9.2 billion that the state provided the city in capital funding.
Yet the administration plans to create only 63,000 seats. In fact, since they received all this new funding from the state, they cut back the capital plan by 3,000 seats.
Meanwhile, new development is springing up all over the city, and will likely cause even more overcrowding in our schools.Recently, the Mayor assembled a sustainability task force to come up with proposals on how to serve a population that is expected to grow by a million residents by 2030, to deal with the increased pressure on housing, energy, sewage, transportation, parks, playgrounds, and other infrastructure.Yet this task force was explicitly instructed to leave schools out of their considerations.
To add insult to injury, the only mention of schools in the 160 pg. report, aside from opening up school playgrounds for more hours, is to use school buildings for more housing!
The report uses as a model PS 109 in East Harlem, and how the school is going to be converted to artist housing: “By working with HPD and the Department of Cultural Affairs to open new affordable spaces for artists, we can not only preserve our physical city but also its essential creative spirit.“
The authors go on to describe the battle of community activists residents who fought for the school building to be preserved – without mentioning that what they really wanted was for PS 109 to be a school again!
The problem is put in further relief by the fact that the DOE is now obligated by state law to submit a five year plan to reduce class sizes in all grades by July 1 – and the regulations specifically require that the city's capital plan be aligned with this proposal.
And this is why we must ask our elected officials to require that schools be incorporated in all large scale residential and commercial developments – and not just small schools with 500 seats, when the need is more than 1,000 new seats, as generated by the Atlantic yards project. And why we need a better capital plan -- one that provides at least twice as many seats as the one currently proposed by DOE.