City announces new Downtown school, doesn’t tell local education council • Brooklyn Paper

City announces new Downtown school, doesn’t tell local education council

Class is in session: City officials announced Wednesday that a new school will occupy the first six floors of a to-be-constructed 35-story office building Downtown at 420 Albee Square West, a 2015 rendering of which is seen here.
KPF Architects

Talk about flunking communication!

A much-needed 392-seat school will be built Downtown, city officials announced Wednesday, but they neglected to share the news with the head of the local education council, its leader said.

“I just don’t know much about it,” said Ayanna Behin, president of the Community Education Council for District 13, which includes Downtown, after this paper reached out to get her reaction. “I wish I knew more.”

The schoolhouse will occupy the first six floors of developer JEMB Realty’s high-end, 35-story office building at 420 Albee Square West between Fulton and Willoughby streets, according to a press release from the Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project.

The Community Education Council is a panel of volunteers who represent parents and advise education officials on programs and improvements. Behin — who sat on its board for a year before taking over as president last month — said she had heard rumors from other parents about the school on Wednesday, but nothing from the city, and hopes that is not a sign of things to come as honchos figure out what type of school it will be.

“I think it’s really important for them to work with the CEC, the community, and the superintendent to make sure these seats will fill the holes we need them to fill,” she said. “I want to make sure the CEC is involved in whatever they’re planning.”

Officials have not decided who the institution will serve, but parents in District 13 — which also includes Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant — have been demanding the city build elementary schools to keep pace with a Downtown population boom that followed the nabe’s 2004 rezoning, which was meant to bring more office space but resulted in more residential development instead.

The ensuing influx of people led Borough President Adams in 2015 to warn of a “school capacity crisis” Downtown if the city did not start building new elementary schools there.

And competition for existing school seats is fierce — Brooklyn Heights’ PS 8 put 22 families on its kindergarten wait list in March, just a year after a controversial rezoning dramatically reduced the area served by the institution.

Usually, the education department, superintendent, and community education panel work together to decide the type of a new school, according to Councilman Steve Levin (D—Boerum Hill), who agreed Downtown is desperate for more elementary classrooms following its rezoning.

“It’s probably the greatest need because of the residential development that wasn’t anticipated,” he said.

The new Albee Square school will not be the first new developer-built facility in the district — a middle school is slated to open in Atlantic Yards in 2018.

A spokesman for the Economic Development Corporation referred a question about the lack of Community Education Council engagement to the education department and School Construction Authority, the agency’s arm in charge of building new schools.

A spokeswoman for the education department did not comment on its outreach to the panel at this time, except to say the School Construction Authority handles community engagement.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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