Town-gown showdown as Slopers assail Berkeley Carroll expansion plan

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An elite private school in Park Slope is caught in the crosshairs of its neighbors who say the academy’s expansion plan poses a threat to the quality of life on their blocks.

The Berkeley Carroll School intends to knock down its one-story annex on Lincoln Place and replace it with a larger one-story structure to add more classrooms, a student lounge, dining space and a rooftop playground.

The seemingly minor change brought more than 75 people to the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday night to vent about the proposal. But school officials defended it as necessary.

“The way our kids work [in school] has changed,” said Bob Vitalo, head of school. “They do a lot more group work, collaborative work and we need space for that. The library is all filled up. We’re looking to create more study space to do the work.”

But in this pre-collegiate town-gown showdown, residents of St. Johns and Lincoln places who live near Berkeley-Carroll’s upper grades, say that the rooftop playground may be too noisy and that the one-story structure could cast unwanted shadows into their homes and backyards.

“These are quality-of-life issues,” said Ann James, who lives on St. Johns Place. “Light, air, peace and quiet — those are three of the most essential things people need, and those things are going to be affected by Berkeley Carroll’s walls going higher and the playground being on the roof. Personally, I am not opposed to what they want to do, but they have to do it in such a way that we can have those things: light, air, peace, and quiet.”

The plans are not shovel-ready, and the school promised to meet with neighbors throughout the planning and construction phases. The school expects the eventual construction to take 15 months.

Some critics said Berkeley Carroll has an uninspiring track record when it comes to renovating its site. In the late 1990s, works on its lower-grade facility on Carroll Street allegedly damaged a neighboring home, which had to be evacuated.

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