Tween spirit: Locals demand middle school in Atlantic Yards

Tween spirit: Locals demand middle school in Atlantic Yards
Photo by Jason Speakman

They’re trying to find some middle ground.

The city must build a middle school at the Pacific Park mega-development in Prospect Heights, a group of local parents and pols demanded on Tuesday.

The city’s education department plans to open a 616-seat school for kindergarteners through eighth-graders at the complex formerly known as Atlantic Yards. But the residents say the school district — which also encompasses Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Dumbo, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and a sliver of Park Slope — desperately needs a dedicated facility for tweens, and the lack of options in the area is forcing parents to put their offspring in private schools or abandon the neighborhoods altogether.

“I personally have lost friends to other communities because they sought an appropriate middle-school education for their children,” said Sharon Wedderburn, chair of the education committee of Community Board 8, which covers Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.

The middle-school agitators — a coalition that includes the local community education council and community board, and parents from PS 9 in Prospect Heights — launched an online petition on Tuesday demanding Mayor DeBlasio and schools chancellor Carmen Farina commit to creating an intermediate school at the site that specializes in high-tech science subjects including software engineering and robotics, and dual-language classes in both French and Spanish, which it claims will build on programs already running in local grade schools.

“A dedicated middle school accessible to all students in our district will not only provide needed additional middle school seats, but it will increase the diversity and stability of our elementary schools, too,” reads the petition from the group, which is calling itself “MS One Brooklyn.”

Developer Forest City Ratner Companies promised in 2009 to include a public school in its sprawling Atlantic Yards project in an effort to accommodate the influx of families who will eventually populate the 6,400 new units in the development. The city announced in May this year that it intends to create a facility for both elementary and middle graders, which it will put into a planned 27-story tower at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, slated to open in 2018.

Local officials slammed the original school proposal as crumbs tossed to neighbors to soften the blow of a multi-decade development that will add more than a dozen high-rises to the neighborhood, but praised the activists for attempting to turn lemons into lemonade.

“This school was an afterthought,” said Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D–Brooklyn Heights), who is backing the middle-school push alongside pols including Coucilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Fort Greene), Coucilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), and state Senator Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights). “I look forward to the day when schools are not a mitigation for someone else’s plan and that they are an integral part of what we as a community do.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro[email protected]cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Master plan: The city announced plans in May for a 616-seat school at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, part of the mega-development formerly known as Atlantic Yards.
School Construction Authority