Troubled high-schoolers a threat at tot lot, Prospect Heights parents say

Troubled high-schoolers a threat at tot lot, Prospect Heights parents say
Photo by Cassandra Giraldo

Toddlers will get an unwelcome education in the school of hard knocks when an “alternative learning center” for suspended high school students opens next door to a Prospect Heights tot lot, parents of young children fear.

Neighbors are scared that teens who have been temporarily booted from city high schools will be rowdy, cause fights, and commit crimes near the teensy-slide and tire swing-boasting play space at Park Place and Underhill Avenue.

“It’s a sweet little place with lots of running around and scampering — not a spot to warehouse the worst students in the school system,” said neighborhood dad Jason Orans, who moved nearby partly because of the swing-set perks.

Up to 70 high schoolers will attend class at the facility — which opens Sept. 6 — “to receive academic support, counseling, and social-emotional learning,” according to the Department of Education.

The former office space has no kitchen or outdoor recreation area, which adds to the problem, other neighbors say.

“If you shut these students in all day with no space, they’re going to get rowdy,” said Susan Metz, a neighbor and former teacher who claims the city is “importing problems” to the community.

Department of Education spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the agency has met with elected officials and community leaders to plan how to oversee the teens and communicate with neighbors.

“[Class] dismissal will be staggered and staff will be on the perimeter as students leave the property,” said Feinberg. “A community coordinator will be on site available to the community.”

But that’s not enough for some parents, who fear the new school will give their kids a front-row seat to bad behavior — they want the learning center shut down completely.

“I’m worried about the energy and the tranquility of the neighborhood,” said Orans, who added that he doesn’t feel comfortable with “any teens hanging around” near the tot lot, let alone ones “with emotional problems.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.