Illegal home conversions have Dyker, Ridge schools bursting at seams

This heat map shows the frequency of 311 complaints regarding illegal home conversions, and the degree of overcrowding in local elementary schools.
The Brooklyn Paper
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The rash of illegal home conversions in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst is causing a school-overcrowding crisis, and the city isn’t taking the issue seriously, locals say.

The practice of subdividing two-family homes into multi-family apartments is bringing more kids to District 20 schools than classrooms can handle, according to local leaders. A section of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights with the most 311 complaints of illegal home conversions in the area also has the most overcrowded elementary schools, according to our analysis of school enrollment and 311 complaints within community boards 10 and 11.

The School for Future Leaders, the Ralph A. Fabrizio School, PS 127, and PS 176 enrolled at least 1.5 times their stated capacity in 2014, Department of Education data show. The four elementary schools sit within the same square mile of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights where 311 has received the heaviest concentration of illegal conversion complaints since 2010.

At 171-percent enrollment, Dyker Heights’ PS 176 is the most overcrowded of all of District 20’s 37 schools, and the situation is having a clear, negative impact on kids, according to the administrator of the neighborhood’s community board.

“At PS 176, there are kids in hallways,” said Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann.

The school zones in District 20 where the Department of Buildings has issued the most illegal conversion tickets also tend to have more overcrowded schools, data show. The city slapped eight building owners within the area zoned for PS 176 with violations since 2010, more than areas zoned for other schools, according to city data. Enforcement of the laws prohibiting chopping up residences into many apartments is notoriously lax, as the city sent inspectors to investigate fewer than half of the complaints in the area since 2012, and inspector protocol is to close a complaint if no one at the address lets them in after two visits.

The main driver of school overcrowding and the illegal home conversions is population growth due to immigration, according to Community Board 10’s education committee chair.

“The number one issue is immigration,” said Bob Hudock. “Bensonhurst is the number two neighborhood in the city for foreign-born immigrants.”

A 2013 report from the Department of City Planning found that Bensonhurst has the second-highest number of foreign-born residents in the city.

A lack of low-priced housing drives families into illegally converted homes, and Hudock believes that causes the city to underestimate just how big the population boom is, since tenants in the cramped apartments typically try to avoid official notice, skewing census data. Also, landlords who illegally subdivide houses routinely lie to the city about the numbers of units and occupants, said Hudock, making city records an inaccurate measure of local population in areas with high rates of illegal conversions.

The Department of Education uses data from the departments of health, housing preservation, city planning, and buildings to project future seat needs, according to a spokesman, who said the projections “have been accurate to around 1 to 2 percent” during the last decade.

But in a seeming vindication of Hudock’s criticism, the Department of Education’s plan to add seats to District 20 falls more than 30 percent short of the district’s current stated needs.

The city plans to create 4,044 new elementary school seats in the district as soon as it finds a suitable site to build, according to Beckmann, but even that many new seats wouldn’t bring District 20’s schools down to 100 percent of official capacity.

There are 25,594 students currently enrolled in the district’s 37 elementary schools and only 19,760 seats, so even after those planned seats are added, there will still be a 1,790-desk shortfall.

Local pols are calling on city agencies need to work together to shed light on the growing problem of illegal conversions, and one Brooklyn lawmaker suggested the Department of Education start reporting obvious red flags to the buildings department as a first step.

“When they’ve got 12 kids listed at one address, they should be telling the Department of Buildings,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Sunset Park). “I don’t think the city is taking this seriously right now.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
more affordable housing!!!
Nov. 17, 2014, 8:22 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
“At PS 176, there’s kids in hallways,” said Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann."

Beckman was not an English major.
Nov. 17, 2014, 9:52 am
what are we talking about from Brooklyn says:
We DON'T need to build schools to accommodate illegal residents.

We DO need to fine and eradicate illegal housing in both residential & industrial areas.

We DON'T need to accommodate a housing demand and further over populate Brooklyn, as what happened to Manhattan, just to fill the pockets of the super wealthy landlords and the insatiable appetite of our wonderful NYC tax collectors.

We're FULL, we can't move, quality of life is going down. STOP and smell flowers if there's space left for them to grow.

WAKE UP, we're being driven out of our own homes to accommodate implants. This is OUR Brooklyn!
Nov. 17, 2014, 10:32 am
b from gp says:
Did you know Brooklyn's trash is mostly Brooklyn demolition and construction debris?
Nov. 17, 2014, 11:40 am
b from gp says:
for more information,

suck it REBNY
Nov. 17, 2014, 11:42 am
Benson Hurst from Bensonhurst says:
“The 2013 edition of The Newest New Yorkers paints a vivid portrait of the immigrants who strengthen our many neighborhoods with their presence,” said City Planning Executive Director Richard Barth. “Our capacity to welcome newcomers has been historically central to New York City’s economic success, and our task is to continue to enhance opportunities that make New York a place where immigrants want to be and ensure a continuation of the dynamic ebb and flow of people that makes our city great.”
Nov. 17, 2014, 11:47 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Oh well, this what happens when affordable housing is scarce. If you're against building affordable homes in the area then this is what the end result is gonna be.
Nov. 17, 2014, 1:15 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Besides, a real estate mogul recently said that the NYC market is bound to pop at any moment. Soon, it'll all be affordable again for everyone.
Nov. 17, 2014, 1:17 pm
b from gp says:
... And a bit of the otherside of that old news coin,

Why did it take so many egg heads to rebuild the apple store in the GM plaza?

False control results in false demand.

I love the 7 train!
Nov. 17, 2014, 3:58 pm
jay from nyc says:
people have to live somewhere and they can only live where they can afford to live. So, I think the solution here is either a large wage increase imposed by law (aint gonna happen) or a a million new apartments being built with in a couple of years (also not gonna happen).
So, given that, I am not sure there is any way around this, unless you wanna hire a couple of thousand inspectors to crack down on it, and then build scads of homeless shelters, at tax payer expense, for all these people to move into.
Nov. 17, 2014, 6:01 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
The Chinese overpay for homes and then chop them up into dinky apartments. Row houses with NO WINDOWS in their basements have their 100-year old entrances to the basements (a few steep steps) changed to full staircases with regular entrance doors. Clearly these basements are being made into apartments. This is becoming more and more common on the 400 blocks in the 50's streets.
Nov. 17, 2014, 9:07 pm
Bay Ridge from Dyker from Bay Ridge/ Dyker Heights says:
Bay Ridge from Dyker says:
@Benson Hurst from Bensonhurst

Absolutely no argument or doubt that immigrants strengthen not only our city, but also our country. The issue is NOT an argument against immigration, it is about the flouting of existing laws and the breakdown of services and quality of life that illegal activity brings with it. These laws have been put into effect to protect everyone no matter what generation of immigrants they may be. Almost everyone from the Bay Ridge Dyker Heights community can trace their roots in the present to their family’s original home country. Immigration is nothing new to this community.

"...our task is to continue to enhance opportunities that make New York a place where immigrants want to be and ensure a continuation of the dynamic ebb and flow of people that makes our city great.”
Nov. 17, 2014, 10:24 pm
Adele from Dyker Heights says:
@Bay Ridge from Dyker - well said!!! I agree wholeheartedly. We are all children of immigrants. I am a first generation American and I live in Dyker Heights. Homes in my neighborhood are being sold to foreign investors which is ok. What is not ok is that that these investors are not abiding by New York State and New York CIty laws by getting Building Permits for minor renovations and subdividing the apartments into multiple dwellings (protected by State law) including very dangerous construction involving excavation of basements. One and two family homes are being subdivided into 4 family homes or more. City taxes are based on type of property. They pay lower tax rate for one and two family homes yet use more city services. How will we pay for more schools. garbage pick ups, and other infrastructure strains on our sewer system if we are not collecting revenues based on dwelling use??? This foreign investment scheme is artifically inflating the prices of homes and needs to be investigated. Dyker Heights was once a place that middle class city workers could move to buy a one family home or rent an apartment. If the investors rehabilitated homes to their legal occupancy - prices would adjust and impact on city services would diminish.
Nov. 18, 2014, 7:51 am
b from gp says:
Could one go so far as saying having fewer children would strengthen a currency (not to be confused with inflating)?
Nov. 18, 2014, 8:26 am
U.V. from Global says:
A screening of 'Idiocracy' should be a required part of everyone's curricula.
Nov. 18, 2014, 9:19 am
Benson Hurst from Bensonhurst says:
School overcrowding is nothing new and has been a problem for many years. To make an argument that it is a direct result of, as Mr. Me states ' The Chinese' only reinforces the stereotype of Dyker residents that is very clear. At least they get A's for spelling contrary to many first generation "Americans".
Further, at this time of Thanksgiving we should be reminded of the first illegal immigrants that came on the Mayflower.
Nov. 18, 2014, 2:57 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
perhaps Community Board 10 should go for lesson at neighboring CB12, where, "the birthrate is above average with eight to ten children per family being the norm." Money for private school to help alleviate the overcrowding schools is needed.
Nov. 18, 2014, 3:41 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
@mj, took the words right outta my mouth. Also, you forgot to mention the illegals that came here on the Nina, pinta, & Santa Maria.
Nov. 18, 2014, 4:18 pm
[Ms.] Me from Bay Ridge says:
As a veteran of Catholic grammar school in the 60s I say anything less than 45 pupils per class is UNDERcrowding. Strangely, we could spell very well, thank you.
Nov. 18, 2014, 4:31 pm
Joey from Dyker heights says:
It's the Chinese that are doing this. The city needs to stop this.
Nov. 18, 2014, 10:42 pm
joe from blow says:
At least these kids are going to school, which is not always the case with low income parents.

A total disregard and or ignorance of global sprawl exists. Cell phone, purses, tvs and cars have become the priorities.
Nov. 19, 2014, 9:30 am
joe from blow says:
I'm not familiar with this area's library. I am aware that the Chinatown libraries in Manhattan and Queens (also K-town ) are filled with kids after school doing homework. These kids are not skipping school hanging out during the day playing video games, a form of supplemental day care, as so often does happen. I suggest visiting the Brooklyn's Main Branch to develop better firsthand understanding.

This coming from someone who feels skipping school or work once a season is beneficial.
Nov. 19, 2014, 9:48 am
Joe from bayridge says:
How about parking. It takes me 10 min to drive to work and one hour or more to find parking when I get home. Hello!!!
Nov. 19, 2014, 5:39 pm
joe from blow says:
@ Joe from Bayridge, Where in the city do you work? Why not take the express N, save the planet, time? Are buses not an option? I don't understand people who drive in the city.
Nov. 19, 2014, 8:14 pm
joe from blow says:
Bike? Walk?
Nov. 19, 2014, 8:16 pm
.:;* from where water runs says:
even lama monks throw valuable trash out of bus windows while driving through the highland
Nov. 20, 2014, 10:11 am
bay ridge from dyker from bay ridge dyker says:
Dear Everybody,
Do the petty arguments change when someone dies? Apparently not. This is the latest story in a long line of deaths attributed to illegal conversions.
Nov. 20, 2014, 11:12 am
b from gp says:
I find it strange the real estate sector is so powerful and yet we know not how to maintain what has been built thus far. NYC architecture has been raped and pillaged ten times over by people imagining themselves to be entitled by a dream, be they corporate entities or individuals.

'use loose taste waste'
Nov. 20, 2014, 3:36 pm
Johnny from Dyker Heights says:
I posted a review on, and I respectfully commented on issues facing our schools in this district. I stated that the teachers were competent but the schools are facing serious issues due to the overwhelming overcrowding due to illegal conversions and immigration.....I was flagged and my postings were REMOVED. Why is it when we speak the truth in a respectful manner about racism, immigration the truth is always deleted?
March 21, 2015, 7:15 pm

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