Parents say NYC public schools overcrowded

May 9, 2008 8:11:29 AM PDT
Parents and public officials are warning that schools in some city neighborhoods are overcrowded, because a jump in residential development is not being matched with an increase in new educational facilities. City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. said in a report to be released Friday that the school system's capital planning processes were "broken," according to the New York Times.

"There are far too many neighborhoods with overcrowded schools and no hope of relief for at least several more years," he said, according to the Times.

The School Construction Authority did not sufficiently account for new residential construction when it estimated how many seats would be needed in school districts, the report said.

Thompson pointed to fast-developing neighborhoods like Dumbo in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens, saying he was concerned that residential construction in those places was outpacing new schools. But the criticism was not limited to wealthy enclaves. Advocates in the High Bridge neighborhood of the Bronx said they were clamoring for a new middle school.

The city bases school plans on district-wide enrollment. Thompson criticized the move, saying that within the 32 districts, there are specific neighborhoods that are either growing or shrinking rapidly.

The report makes a number of proposals, including giving private developers more financial incentives to build schools, according to the Times.

Education Department officials said they considered new construction projects as well as other factors when deciding where to build new schools. The resulting $13.1 billion capital plan promises 63,000 new seats in new school buildings, leased spaces or additions.

Sharon Greenberger, president of the School Construction Authority, told the Times she had not seen Thompson's report and could not comment specifically on it.

But she told the Times a number of "imaginative and aggressive" efforts were under way to create new schools. One plan calls for a part of New York Foundling headquarters to be transformed into a school, according to the agency, which said it would continue to provide family services in the community.

Education officials are also planning to explore whether zoning should be adjusted in addition to building new schools.

But that doesn't help parents whose children are stuck on waiting lists or crammed into crowded schools.

"The city needed to be quicker to respond," Eric Greenleaf, a Public School 234 parent, told the Times. He is chairman of the school's recently formed overcrowding committee.