Gentrification claims new victim: child-care centers

Gentrification claims new victim: child-care centers
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

A city plan to close 10 child-care centers in gentrifying neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn is misguided because it ignores the reality that most people using the facilities do so because they are near their workplaces, not their homes, critics said this week.

Last month, the Bloomberg administration announced major child care cuts, moving to close what the city says are unneeded centers in gentrified neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Clinton Hill — but day-care providers say that their customers are anything but well off.

The plan does not consider that people who can’t afford to live in these pricey neighborhoods are often the ones working in them.

“Most of our kids come from other areas with parents who work near us,” said Jerry Chiapetta, the executive director of the Court Street Day Care Center in Cobble Hill, one of the centers slated for the ax. “We’re fulfilling the needs of your typical low-income people.”

The city says that cutting 750 slots in the 10 centers will save $9 million out of a total city budget of $73 billion. And officials added that children from shuttered centers will be placed in remaining facilities.

But center directors insist that the city is using post-gentrification real estate prices to suggest that city-funded centers are not needed in tony neighborhoods.

For those who can’t find room in a convenient center, private child-care facilities may be a financial impossibility — especially for those who now pay as little as $3 a week.

Sarah Lucas, mother of a three-year-old currently enrolled at the Duffield Day Care Center in Fort Greene, said her child has already been uprooted once, and she is now forced to travel across town for day care.

“If [Duffield] closed, I don’t know what I would do,” she said. “My son loves this school, and now they want to put condos up here or something because it’s prime real estate.”

Yes, neighborhoods have changed, but the customers still keep coming, said Lilton Mitchell, a longtime board member at the Bethel Day Care Center across the street from the Gowanus House in Boerum Hill.

“There’s been a change in the population [around the center], sure, but we haven’t lost our target population,” he said. “Buildings that used to be commercial are becoming residential. We’re still across the street from the projects.”

Other centers that are slated to close include:

• Martha Udell Center, 505 St. Marks Ave. in Prospect Heights.

• Alonzo Daughtry Center, 101 Fleet Pl. in Downtown.

• Farragut Day Care Center, 104 Gold St. in Vinegar Hill.

• Strong Place Center at 252 Hoyt St. in Boerum Hill.

• Salvation Army Fiesta Center, 80 Lorraine St. in Red Hook.

• Learner’s Haven Day Care Center, 432 Rutland Rd. in Crown Heights.

• Bedford Avenue Day Care Center, 40 Brevoort Pl. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

At the AMICO day care center on Court Steet, Executive Director Jerry Chiappetta wonders how he can survive after proposed city cuts.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan