Friday, June 13, 2008

School Daze Update

(NYC - Battery Park City: World Financial Center Plaza, originally uploaded by wallyg. Photo used under Creative Commons license.)

Battery Park City and Tribeca has been abuzz lately with school stuff. As I mentioned a little while ago, our two downtown public elementary schools, PS 89 and PS 234, are some of the best in the city. That lure plus the incentives provided by the City and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation offered after 9/11 really did revitalize the neighborhood. Revitalized the heck out of it. PS 234 is way over capacity — even with its new annex — and the principal of PS 89 has had to get crafty with the building plan to carve out new classrooms.

With the recent news that many kids had been put on the waiting list, the issue seems finally ready to boil over (again). Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer came to the PS 89 auditorium yesterday for an open forum on downtown overcrowding. I didn't get a chance to go, but my lovely wife did attend for a while. It was packed, she said. Stringer vowed to work to get all the kids who wanted to go to 89 and 234 in their doors. Small problem, though: there isn't any space. Ideas were floated, such as commandeering more space in the buildings (though not much is left), or bringing in trailers as temporary classrooms. Someone also suggested that Stuyvesant, the nearby high school, lend some of its classrooms for PS 89, but the principal of that school was on hand to regretfully point out that they're squeezed as well, so no dice. As it stands, then, PS 89 will have 6 Kindergarten classes next fall (which comes out to about 25 or 26 kids per class), some of which may very well be coloring in the stairwell.

The trailer approach is typical in that it's short term. As a friend of ours from the building pointed out, these Kindergartners aren't likely going anywhere, which means that the year after these schools will be struggling to find space for all their first graders as well as their new crowd of five-year-olds. The solutions sound temporary but, as is often the case, the problem isn't.

That same friend from our building suggested that parents hold meetings on the latest construction site —where another luxury apartment building is beginning to rise — right across from PS 89. Perhaps if the big real estate developers can't make their money, the city government will finally feel the pressure to do some sound city planning.

Battery Park City is back; now it's time for the City to pony up.

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