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Transplants turned activists say that the city has failed to plan for the thousands of kids that will soon pour into the newly residential neighborhood

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Downtown faces kid crunch as nearby schools fill and apartment towers crowd in: Parents

The Brooklyn Paper
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Downtown is headed for a classroom crisis if it does not get a public elementary school soon because children in the fast-growing residential portion of the neighborhood have all but filled the available slots in nearby schools, parents say.

The area that was almost totally commercial as recently as a decade ago has seen a slew of residential towers rise in recent years and another batch is being built that will bring thousands more people, including many families, squeezing the already-packed public schools in adjacent neighborhoods, according to transplants who became activists when they realized that nothing is being done to absorb the crop of new students.

“We moved to Downtown Brooklyn about four years ago and assumed with all the building that’s been going on, they must be planning for a school,” said Chris Young, a television documentary producer, who moved to the neighborhood around the time his first child was born.

But to Young’s surprise, the neighborhood does not have a public elementary school and none is planned that community leaders know about, though only 400 seats remain in the public schools Downtown kids currently attend in Dumbo, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights. The neighborhood was home to 6,270 people as of the 2010 census and that population could more than double as some 8,000 apartments come online, according to the agitator dad, including some 2,500 that are part of towers under construction such as City Point, Avalon Bay on Willoughby and Bridge streets, 388 Bridge Street, and the Hub on Livingston and Schermerhorn streets.

A 757-seat elementary school is proposed for Prospect Heights as part of the contentious Atlantic Yards development but the planning process has not begun and construction would not start until 2019 at the earliest, according to the Department of Education. And the project does little to ease the concerns of Downtown parents such as Young, who says that a big part of the problem with the existing set-up is that it forces children walking to school to cross the hectic roads bounding the neighborhood, including Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Tillary Street.

“The neighborhood is bordered by the busiest and most hazardous streets in all of Brooklyn,” Young said.

Young founded the group Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions to advocate for a community school and the organization succeeded in getting the attention of officials including neighborhood Councilman Stephen Levin and leaders of Community Board 2, which has made getting Downtown a public school a top priority.

But Robert Perris, district manager for Community Board 2, said that if an elementary school comes, it probably will not happen in time for Downtown’s new parents to benefit.

“If an elementary school is built in Downtown Brooklyn, there will be people who wanted that to happen, but their kids will be in junior high,” Perris said.

Schools are expensive, after all. Developer Two Trees is budgeting $43-million for a school inside its Dock Street apartment project in Dumbo, and that is just to build out and outfit the interior, not to build a whole school from scratch.

Downtown’s lunch-pail crunch has been brewing as Mayor Bloomberg has been busy trying to shoehorn new schools, most of them public, into existing ones, often over the opposition of parents and teachers.

Downtown’s building — and baby — booms were made possible by a 2005 rezoning that encouraged high-rise construction between the Manhattan Bridge and Fulton Street.

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Updated 7:39 pm, November 8, 2013: Additional context added.
Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
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Reasonable discourse

marsha Rimler from Brooklyn says:
This is a valid and important issue..I am sure space can be found quickly.. I suggest the people who want the school find the space and go to their elected officials to get his off the ground. Last time I checked Bob Perris was not an elected by the citizens of downtown brooklyn
Nov. 8, 2013, 10:31 am
Jay from Nyc says:
This is all part and parcell of the lousy job done with development. Brooklyn needs new housing stuff is getting built and there is no thoight to the required infrastructrue. So you go crazy trying to find a decent place to raise your family and then get stuck with the lousy school system after shelling out a million bucks for an apartment. This does not really happen anywhere else in the country and its a disgrace. Everywhere else in thw u.s. they have 20 and 30 year plans to dwal with these issues, but here in fablous nyc we have 3rx world development methods.
Nov. 8, 2013, 10:32 am
Crawford from Boerum Hill says:
This is a stupid issue. There are half-empty schools surrounding downtown Brooklyn. The issue isn't lack of school space (public school enrollment has been stable over the last decade, and slightly down in North Brooklyn)but a few folks who demand a school right next to where they live and refuse to send their kids a few blocks away.
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:11 am
Joan from Crawfish says:
Crawford, m'dear! So happy to see you sharing your wisdom as freely as you have everything else! But do be a love, Love, and tell us what you're basing your little profundities on, hmmm? I understand that 2 Trees are the only developers who have agreed in any way to even outfit a school! I was shocked (Shocked! I tell you!) to find out that lovely man, Bruce Ratner, told the City to shove it when they suggested he should consider building a school into Atlantic Yards! But as Brucie says, "Hey, if Mike says I can get away with it, I'm gonna!"
I wonder what will happen under that new Socialist Mayor, DeBrenadine, or whatever...?
TA!
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:47 am
Sara T Nelson from PH says:
Seriously, we should all be considering home schooling anyway. It's much better for our children and they get a better education, and won't be exposed to the "goings on" in public, or even worse, Catholic schools.
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:52 am
Roberta Ingersoll from Fort Greene says:
Awwww poor little white condo f**ks; maybe if they moved to the neighborhood their (underpaid) (off the books) black nannies lived in it wouldn't be a problem?
Nov. 8, 2013, 12:22 pm
Ted from Park Slope says:
@Roberta... If they all moved to the areas you suggest, you think the schools would be able to handle the influx of all the kids? Nope, they'd need to build more schools too.

You're clearly a bit on the un(der)educated side. And why so angry? Actually, I take all this back, you're probably a white guy sitting in his sad office cube trolling. That's right, I know who you are.
Nov. 8, 2013, 2:09 pm
T-Bone from DoBro says:
Full Disclosure: The T-Man owns in this hood so he stands to gain if there are better schools in the zone. That being said, there are more than one side to this. There currently is plenty of room in the current zoned elementary and middle schools for the current residents. The problem is that they are a terrible walk across Flatbush and Tillary. I mean, it's really bad since you can't even transverse north through MetroTech due to the security cordon around FDNY HQ. Oh, and the schools are smack dab in the middle of the projects. Now once the current buildings under construction are finished, there probably will be a need for a new school. But, you can understand why the parents of pre-school-aged kids are rushing to get this done. There's just no polite way of saying it. It's like the people in Carroll Gardens who are against the homeless shelter because "it's not fair to cram in 17 to a room," when you know that the primary reason is because no one wants these layabouts wandering all day in their prime neighborhood.

T-Bone is just being honest.
Nov. 8, 2013, 2:52 pm
DTBMOM from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Neighborhood parents don't have an issue with the children at the desks next to their kids. Don't make it about something it is not. They might have an issue with failing schools, appearing to stem from failed leadership, in addition to the fact the schools are not in fact in their neighborhood. Perhaps.

But the bottom line remains that if the city had correctly predicted the population numbers for Downtown BK, they would have planned a school like they've done elsewhere in the city. It turns out they vastly underestimated the population numbers. This issue needs to be addressed before a crisis is reached (and it takes years to plan for and build a new school). Yes, schools aren't cheap, but more expensive than planning a new school is not planning a new school until it is too late.
Nov. 8, 2013, 3:40 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
I can't even believe this is news. There are no schools, there are no hospitals, there is no traffic patrol, no adequate trash pickup, no affordable supermarkets, no soccer field in FG park, and no planning. There are only developers, speciality stores and art houses. And it's hip that way.
Nov. 8, 2013, 10:16 pm
Roberto from Brooklyn Heights says:
The Mom from Clinton Hill has it right. The plan for NYC is to secure a base for developers, luxury condos, expensive shops and a growing service structure for those with money. BUSINESS MEN LIKE RATNER are given public land on the cheap with unbelievable tax "incentives" and are not required to put schools in their new developments.
Witness the luxury hotel and multimillion dollar townhouses being built IN Brooklyn Bridge Park. It makes no sense to attack the children of the rich who have private tutors, special programs, organic food, high-priced medical care and great dental plans. It's the parents who have collaborated to push the poor out of NYC. Support for private and charter schools takes money from the public treasury. Remember when Bloomberg famously said, if you can't afford to live here, get out. It's obvious that Bloomberg gave away our store. Isn't it time to make it much more costly for the rich to live in NYC? We'll see about de Blasio shortly.
Nov. 11, 2013, 8:35 am
Sara from Heights says:
What's wrong with organic food?
Nov. 11, 2013, 1:42 pm
Wednesday says:
I agree with (Mom from Clinton Hill)
There is nothing in FG/CH except: restaurants, bars, luxury condos and crossing guards that hang out at the bodegas...
I liked the bums who serenaded me at the 54 bus stop in the morning. Other than that, there was nothing - no parking either.
Nov. 13, 2013, 4:16 pm

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