Class dismissed: Mayor backs off unpopular expressway-adjacent pre-K plan

Down to business: Mayor DeBlasio announced the city won’t put a pre-K right next to the Gowanus Expressway during a town hall in Bay Ridge on Feb. 16.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

He got the message.

Mayor DeBlasio is backing off an unpopular plan to build a pre-K facility next to a Gowanus Expressway off-ramp, Hizzoner announced at a town hall meeting at Fort Hamilton High School on Feb. 16, assuaging concerns a bevy of local leaders had with the noisy and busy locale.

“I am here today to announce that we will not use that site, because we heard your community’s concerns and they were very valid concerns about the safety of our children,” DeBlasio said to a roar of applause in a packed gymnasium.

Both Community Board 10 and School District 20’s community education council came out in force against the proposal for the 108-seat facility in January and even urged the School Construction Authority to nix the plan before it spent any taxpayer money on air-quality and traffic studies at the site.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) promised he would oppose the siting if and when it came up for a vote in the Council.

The site — at the corner of 86th Street and expressway off-ramp Gatling Place — housed Sanitation Department offices and Community Board 10’s offices from the 1970s through the late 2000s. Board members told personal anecdotes about the acrid air floating over from the neighboring highway, the piles of trash drivers tossed near the site from the expressway’s exit, and its frightening rodent infestation at a Jan. 20 meeting education officials regarding the site.

Others raised concerns about safety at the intersection, where there was roughly one accident per month over the last few months.

“It’s very hard to cross the street, we used to have our meetings there, and when you left, you’re looking here and looking there — it’s an awkward spot,” board member Barbara Germack said at the meeting. “It is really an inappropriate site, especially for young children and mothers.”

During the same Feb. 16 town hall, DeBlasio promised his administration would pursue “aggressive enforcement” against the Prince Hotel on 93rd Street, a hotbed of alleged illegal activity a stone’s throw from a pre-kindergarten facility the city filed permits to build in December.

He also apologized that a task force he assembled last year to take on the Prince Hotel failed to stop shady activity there after community leaders panned the city’s plan for the pre-K down the block.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.
They gave it an F: The proposed pre-K — steps from the Gowanus off-ramp — was wildly unpopular among locals.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

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