A Windsor Terrace mom has landed in a puddle of bureaucratic spit-up in her effort to open an affordably priced pre-school in the heart of the South Slope — a neighborhood notoriously devoid of day-care options.
The Department of Health swooped in and shut down the fledgling Parker’s Place pre-school on Oct. 16 while 11 tykes were napping inside, citing the operator’s lack of a permit.
But the operator, Deborah Capone, is fighting back. Not only were all the tykes’ parents aware of her permit status, claims Capone, but she blames the city’s morass of seemingly contradictory bureaucratic regulations for her lack of that same permit.
“I want to open my doors ASAP,” said Capone. “The only thing I’m asking for is for someone in the city to tell me how to do it and help me make it happen.”
Capone’s been mired in this Kafka-esque tangle since March, when the Department of Health inspected her proposed site on Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th streets. The agency OK’d the preliminary architectural plans on May 2, according to documents obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.
Confident that she would be able to open the pre-school, Capone spent $50,000 — the money she and her husband had been saving up for the purchase of a house — to install bamboo floors and put recycled-rubber safety mats in the backyard.
Capone may have been counting her Sippy Cups before they were washed. That’s because she still needed to get a certificate of occupancy from the Department of Buildings.
Alas, the department wouldn’t grant her that C of O because only one of the center’s three exits leads directly onto the sidewalk. The other two lead into the building’s hallway.
“It sounds like this individual just got ahead of herself,” said Sara Markt, a Department of Health spokeswoman. “We made it very clear from the outset that the operator would need Buildings approval, too.”
Buildings Department spokeswoman Kate Lindquist echoed that sentiment.
“The departments have different standards,” she said. “The Buildings Department reviews applications for compliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. The Health Department reviews applications for compliance with health regulations. An owner must meet the requirements of all applicable laws in order to safely operate a nursery school.”
The city’s move has left Capone, and the parents of the kids who had attended her school for the past few weeks, in a difficult bind.
“It’s so hard to find child care in Park Slope,” said Graci Moore, who sends her 3-year-old son to Parker’s Place.
“Capone is offering child care at a reasonable rate,” said Moore. “There’s very little care in this neighborhood, unless you hire a nanny, which is $600 a week. I don’t know what working mothers are supposed to do.”
While parents wait for the Department of Buildings to relent, Capone continues to pay $4,500 a month in rent. Her landlord is considering letting her create a fourth entrance, one that will lead directly to the sidewalk — if her finances can hold out that long.