Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/class-size-matters 2019-04-26T00:21:38+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Amazon Will Only Exacerbate Long Island City School Overcrowding 2018-11-26T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8101-amazon-will-only-exacerbate-long-island-city-school-overcrowding Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayordeblasio-mccray-chancellor.jpg" alt="mayordeblasio mccray chancellor" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The plan to provide Amazon up to $3 billion in city and state tax cuts and other subsidies to site one of their new headquarters in Long Island City leaves the children who are living there in the lurch. The booming community is already severely short on school seats, a problem that Amazon’s move to the area will only exacerbate given recent trends, Department of Education projections, and the details of the Amazon deal that have been released.</p> <p>The only zoned elementary school in Long Island City, PS 78, is already at 135% capacity, and more than 70 children who were zoned to the school were put on the <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/03/22/here-are-the-50-new-york-city-schools-with-kindergarten-waitlists-in-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">waitlist for kindergarten</a> last spring, while classes for numerous pre-K kids are being housed in trailers.</p> <p>There are plans for two small elementary schools of about 600 seats each to be created as part of a huge 5,000-housing unit <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160215/long-island-city/long-island-city-get-new-elementary-school-at-hunters-point-south" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hunters Point South development</a>, but these schools are likely to be immediately overcrowded the day they open. There are already three sections of kindergarten students attending class in an incubation site at a nearby pre-K center, waiting to attend the first elementary school, which will not be completed until 2021.</p> <p>An already-planned middle school had been proposed to be built on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170731/long-island-city/tf-cornerstone-nyc-edc-44th-drive-development-new-school" target="_blank" rel="noopener">city-owned land</a> as part of a mixed-use 1,000-unit project, but this area is now to be incorporated into the Amazon development. Contrary to Mayor de Blasio’s claims, the <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r_PpFtnUQcBmNlLkdBecA3bBAAMc1B3j/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">memorandum of understanding</a> with Amazon includes no new school for the neighborhood. Instead, the MOU merely says that the company will pay for this middle school already in the city’s capital plan – but moved to another location, as yet undetermined. As <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/11/13/how-amazon-could-affect-new-york-city-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chalkbeat NY explained</a>, “The company agreed to house a 600-seat intermediate school on or near its Long Island City campus, replacing a school that had already been planned in a residential building nearby.”</p> <p>From 2006 to 2017, more than 20,000 residential units were built in Long Island City. <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2017/6/26/15875702/long-island-city-construction-usa-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study found</a> that 12,533 apartments in 41 separate developments were built in the community between 2010 and 2016 – not just the highest number in New York City, but more than any other neighborhood in the entire nation.</p> <p>The <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/Projected%20New%20Housing%20Statrts%20as%20Used%20in%202018-2027%20Enrollment%20Projection....pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=SAqWa6LkW75gxrvvc3rh6iOBEjQKlEJ7rOYJ7Tel4JU%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">housing start data</a> recently posted by the School Construction Authority projects 20,000 residential units to be built between 2018-2024 in Queens’ District 30, which includes Long Island City. According to the DOE <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/2018%20Housing%20Multipliers%20Final%2011022018.pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=1XUUO4VQSvq4cfUJVXX3W6NrDAsvCwasXvyxfcGsr5w%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formula</a> used to estimate how much school enrollment growth this will generate, there will be a need for seats for about 4,000 additional elementary and middle school students. Meanwhile, the new <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Capital_plans/11012018_20_24_CapitalPlan.pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=UoDzgbPdHYLWX6MumIqH2i2ZkmoX9No%2BpGs6g%2FAZZoY%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed five-year capital plan</a> for 2020-2024 includes only 1,012 new seats for the entire district – a shortage of nearly 3,000 seats, before the impact of the Amazon deal is even considered.</p> <p>Though nearly all Queens high schools are already overcrowded, there are fewer than 1,000 high school seats for the borough in the proposed five-year plan, while the housing start data alone would generate the need for about 5,000 additional high school students.</p> <p>Another part of the deal includes Amazon making payments in lieu of taxes into an <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r_PpFtnUQcBmNlLkdBecA3bBAAMc1B3j/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">infrastructure fund</a> that, <a href="https://www.amny.com/news/amazon-long-island-city-infrastructure-1.23456277" target="_blank" rel="noopener">starting 11 years after the deal</a>, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) can spend on nearly any sort of use, “including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, utility relocations, environmental remediation, public open space, transportation, schools and signage,” according to the MOU.</p> <p>And to add the most grievous insult to injury, the city now plans to give Amazon a large DOE office building, one that community members have <a href="https://www.liccoalition.org/take-action/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">been fighting to convert into </a>much-needed schools and a community center instead. <a href="https://www.change.org/p/city-elected-officials-save-the-waterfront-this-land-is-our-land-public-land-for-public-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A petition, now with more than 1,500 signatures, to</a> the mayor and local elected officials was posted last year by the <a href="https://www.liccoalition.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Long Island City Coalition</a>.</p> <p>This is not the first time the community’s needs for schools have gone entirely ignored. In 2008, EDC re-zoned city-owned land for the <a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160503/REAL_ESTATE/160509994/massive-queens-apartment-project-adds-elementary-school-as-rail-tunnel-forces-redesign" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hunters Point South project</a> without any plan to create a single new school, ignoring the thousand or so children who were likely to inhabit these new apartments. It took <a href="https://www.change.org/p/mayor-bill-deblasio-chancellor-carmen-fari%C3%B1a-long-island-city-s-hunter-s-point-south-development-does-not-account-for-the-public-school-seats-needed-for-the-incoming-30-000-residents-1bf06de7-dd8b-49c9-b272-1b9e10f1c5b8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a concerted organizing effort</a> of Long Island City parents and elected officials in 2015 for the city to agree to belatedly include two small schools in the plans.</p> <p>We’ve seen this poor planning repeatedly, wherever new residential developments are springing up. The Amazon deal is but a particularly egregious example of how the city’s policies are driven by the interests of the real estate industry and private corporations while the educational needs of our children are too often overlooked. As many education advocates, parents and community leaders have pointed out, the school planning process in New York City is broken, resulting in <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/ny-metro-575k-kids-in-overcrowded-schools-need-more-seats-20181025-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more than half a million</a> students crammed into overcrowded schools and classrooms, with the problem likely to get worse as the city’s population continues to grow.</p> <p>In March 2018, the New York City Council released a report, <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/land-use/wp-content/uploads/sites/53/2018/03/Planning-to-Learn-3.16.2018-high-resolution.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Planning to Learn: The School Building Challenge</a>, which documented many of the problems inherent in the city’s dysfunctional planning process. Before that, Class Size Matters released two reports, <a href="https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Space Crunch</a> and <a href="https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Web-Seat-Loss-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Seats Gained and Lost: the Untold Story</a>, which identified many of the same problems, showing how the city’s methodology to plan for new schools is inherently flawed and lags further and further behind the actual need.</p> <p>The city has consistently underestimated the real need for public schools and to plan accordingly. The school capacity formula is aligned to excessive class sizes of 28 students per class in grades 4-8 and 30 in high school, larger than the current citywide averages, and thus would tend to push class sizes even higher in these grades.</p> <p>The Department of Education’s projections also are based upon housing start data that is highly unreliable, especially the ten-year data, which estimate only a tiny number of new units to be built after the first five or six years. For example, the housing start data posted in March 2017 used to create the current five-year plan projected not a single new housing unit to be built in Brooklyn between 2020 and 2024. The <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/Projected%20New%20Housing%20Statrts%20as%20Used%20in%202018-2027%20Enrollment%20Projection....pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=SAqWa6LkW75gxrvvc3rh6iOBEjQKlEJ7rOYJ7Tel4JU%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">housing start data</a> used for the new proposed capital plan projects 45,000 new housing units will be built in ten school districts between 2018 and 2024, but not a single one the next three years. In District 24 in Queens -– currently, the most overcrowded district in the borough -- the data projects over 3,000 new units to be built during the first six-year period, but only 150 additional units thereafter.</p> <p>Worse yet, a consideration of the need for new schools is only triggered when a proposed development is projected to increase school overcrowding by at least five percent – even in areas like Long Island City, where the schools are already severely overcrowded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, every new large-scale project should require new schools to be built where schools are already overcrowded or likely to become so as a result of new housing and/or current enrollment trends. Parent-led community education councils should be consulted in a meaningful way about the likely impact on schools each time a large-scale project or rezoning is proposed, as they know the educational landscape directly, not just community boards. &nbsp;</p> <p>The formula for projecting enrollment should include 3-K and pre-K students and should be updated regularly with the latest Census and American Community Survey and housing data. &nbsp;And the need for schools should be based upon more realistic ten-year housing trends – not just five-year trends, as it usually takes far more than five years to site and build a new school.</p> <p>Class Size Matters and other parent leaders are proposing these and additional critical reforms to the school planning process to the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission so the city’s students are not left in even worse conditions in the years to come. Meanwhile, the Amazon deal should be scotched or revamped, because, as is stands, it is yet another giveaway to a corporate giant with no consideration of the need to alleviate the overcrowded schools and classrooms under which the neighborhood’s children struggle to learn.</p> <p>If New York City is to thrive and offer opportunities to all its residents, we must ensure that investment in our public schools is a top priority for all agencies, including those focused on economic development. School construction should be the first consideration in all our development goals, rather than added as an afterthought years later, when the overcrowding has become too extreme to ignore. In the end, our investment in education will provide far better financial returns than yet more public land and tax giveaways to developers and corporations.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is Executive Director of Class Size Matters; Sabina Omerhodzic is a Long Island City resident and a member of the Community Education Council in District 30.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayordeblasio-mccray-chancellor.jpg" alt="mayordeblasio mccray chancellor" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The plan to provide Amazon up to $3 billion in city and state tax cuts and other subsidies to site one of their new headquarters in Long Island City leaves the children who are living there in the lurch. The booming community is already severely short on school seats, a problem that Amazon’s move to the area will only exacerbate given recent trends, Department of Education projections, and the details of the Amazon deal that have been released.</p> <p>The only zoned elementary school in Long Island City, PS 78, is already at 135% capacity, and more than 70 children who were zoned to the school were put on the <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/03/22/here-are-the-50-new-york-city-schools-with-kindergarten-waitlists-in-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">waitlist for kindergarten</a> last spring, while classes for numerous pre-K kids are being housed in trailers.</p> <p>There are plans for two small elementary schools of about 600 seats each to be created as part of a huge 5,000-housing unit <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160215/long-island-city/long-island-city-get-new-elementary-school-at-hunters-point-south" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hunters Point South development</a>, but these schools are likely to be immediately overcrowded the day they open. There are already three sections of kindergarten students attending class in an incubation site at a nearby pre-K center, waiting to attend the first elementary school, which will not be completed until 2021.</p> <p>An already-planned middle school had been proposed to be built on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170731/long-island-city/tf-cornerstone-nyc-edc-44th-drive-development-new-school" target="_blank" rel="noopener">city-owned land</a> as part of a mixed-use 1,000-unit project, but this area is now to be incorporated into the Amazon development. Contrary to Mayor de Blasio’s claims, the <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r_PpFtnUQcBmNlLkdBecA3bBAAMc1B3j/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">memorandum of understanding</a> with Amazon includes no new school for the neighborhood. Instead, the MOU merely says that the company will pay for this middle school already in the city’s capital plan – but moved to another location, as yet undetermined. As <a href="https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/11/13/how-amazon-could-affect-new-york-city-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chalkbeat NY explained</a>, “The company agreed to house a 600-seat intermediate school on or near its Long Island City campus, replacing a school that had already been planned in a residential building nearby.”</p> <p>From 2006 to 2017, more than 20,000 residential units were built in Long Island City. <a href="https://ny.curbed.com/2017/6/26/15875702/long-island-city-construction-usa-leader" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A study found</a> that 12,533 apartments in 41 separate developments were built in the community between 2010 and 2016 – not just the highest number in New York City, but more than any other neighborhood in the entire nation.</p> <p>The <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/Projected%20New%20Housing%20Statrts%20as%20Used%20in%202018-2027%20Enrollment%20Projection....pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=SAqWa6LkW75gxrvvc3rh6iOBEjQKlEJ7rOYJ7Tel4JU%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">housing start data</a> recently posted by the School Construction Authority projects 20,000 residential units to be built between 2018-2024 in Queens’ District 30, which includes Long Island City. According to the DOE <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/2018%20Housing%20Multipliers%20Final%2011022018.pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=1XUUO4VQSvq4cfUJVXX3W6NrDAsvCwasXvyxfcGsr5w%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">formula</a> used to estimate how much school enrollment growth this will generate, there will be a need for seats for about 4,000 additional elementary and middle school students. Meanwhile, the new <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Capital_plans/11012018_20_24_CapitalPlan.pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=UoDzgbPdHYLWX6MumIqH2i2ZkmoX9No%2BpGs6g%2FAZZoY%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed five-year capital plan</a> for 2020-2024 includes only 1,012 new seats for the entire district – a shortage of nearly 3,000 seats, before the impact of the Amazon deal is even considered.</p> <p>Though nearly all Queens high schools are already overcrowded, there are fewer than 1,000 high school seats for the borough in the proposed five-year plan, while the housing start data alone would generate the need for about 5,000 additional high school students.</p> <p>Another part of the deal includes Amazon making payments in lieu of taxes into an <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r_PpFtnUQcBmNlLkdBecA3bBAAMc1B3j/view" target="_blank" rel="noopener">infrastructure fund</a> that, <a href="https://www.amny.com/news/amazon-long-island-city-infrastructure-1.23456277" target="_blank" rel="noopener">starting 11 years after the deal</a>, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) can spend on nearly any sort of use, “including but not limited to streets, sidewalks, utility relocations, environmental remediation, public open space, transportation, schools and signage,” according to the MOU.</p> <p>And to add the most grievous insult to injury, the city now plans to give Amazon a large DOE office building, one that community members have <a href="https://www.liccoalition.org/take-action/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">been fighting to convert into </a>much-needed schools and a community center instead. <a href="https://www.change.org/p/city-elected-officials-save-the-waterfront-this-land-is-our-land-public-land-for-public-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A petition, now with more than 1,500 signatures, to</a> the mayor and local elected officials was posted last year by the <a href="https://www.liccoalition.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Long Island City Coalition</a>.</p> <p>This is not the first time the community’s needs for schools have gone entirely ignored. In 2008, EDC re-zoned city-owned land for the <a href="https://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160503/REAL_ESTATE/160509994/massive-queens-apartment-project-adds-elementary-school-as-rail-tunnel-forces-redesign" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hunters Point South project</a> without any plan to create a single new school, ignoring the thousand or so children who were likely to inhabit these new apartments. It took <a href="https://www.change.org/p/mayor-bill-deblasio-chancellor-carmen-fari%C3%B1a-long-island-city-s-hunter-s-point-south-development-does-not-account-for-the-public-school-seats-needed-for-the-incoming-30-000-residents-1bf06de7-dd8b-49c9-b272-1b9e10f1c5b8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a concerted organizing effort</a> of Long Island City parents and elected officials in 2015 for the city to agree to belatedly include two small schools in the plans.</p> <p>We’ve seen this poor planning repeatedly, wherever new residential developments are springing up. The Amazon deal is but a particularly egregious example of how the city’s policies are driven by the interests of the real estate industry and private corporations while the educational needs of our children are too often overlooked. As many education advocates, parents and community leaders have pointed out, the school planning process in New York City is broken, resulting in <a href="https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/ny-metro-575k-kids-in-overcrowded-schools-need-more-seats-20181025-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more than half a million</a> students crammed into overcrowded schools and classrooms, with the problem likely to get worse as the city’s population continues to grow.</p> <p>In March 2018, the New York City Council released a report, <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/land-use/wp-content/uploads/sites/53/2018/03/Planning-to-Learn-3.16.2018-high-resolution.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Planning to Learn: The School Building Challenge</a>, which documented many of the problems inherent in the city’s dysfunctional planning process. Before that, Class Size Matters released two reports, <a href="https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Space Crunch</a> and <a href="https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Web-Seat-Loss-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Seats Gained and Lost: the Untold Story</a>, which identified many of the same problems, showing how the city’s methodology to plan for new schools is inherently flawed and lags further and further behind the actual need.</p> <p>The city has consistently underestimated the real need for public schools and to plan accordingly. The school capacity formula is aligned to excessive class sizes of 28 students per class in grades 4-8 and 30 in high school, larger than the current citywide averages, and thus would tend to push class sizes even higher in these grades.</p> <p>The Department of Education’s projections also are based upon housing start data that is highly unreliable, especially the ten-year data, which estimate only a tiny number of new units to be built after the first five or six years. For example, the housing start data posted in March 2017 used to create the current five-year plan projected not a single new housing unit to be built in Brooklyn between 2020 and 2024. The <a href="https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/Projected%20New%20Housing%20Statrts%20as%20Used%20in%202018-2027%20Enrollment%20Projection....pdf?sr=b&amp;si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&amp;sig=SAqWa6LkW75gxrvvc3rh6iOBEjQKlEJ7rOYJ7Tel4JU%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener">housing start data</a> used for the new proposed capital plan projects 45,000 new housing units will be built in ten school districts between 2018 and 2024, but not a single one the next three years. In District 24 in Queens -– currently, the most overcrowded district in the borough -- the data projects over 3,000 new units to be built during the first six-year period, but only 150 additional units thereafter.</p> <p>Worse yet, a consideration of the need for new schools is only triggered when a proposed development is projected to increase school overcrowding by at least five percent – even in areas like Long Island City, where the schools are already severely overcrowded. &nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, every new large-scale project should require new schools to be built where schools are already overcrowded or likely to become so as a result of new housing and/or current enrollment trends. Parent-led community education councils should be consulted in a meaningful way about the likely impact on schools each time a large-scale project or rezoning is proposed, as they know the educational landscape directly, not just community boards. &nbsp;</p> <p>The formula for projecting enrollment should include 3-K and pre-K students and should be updated regularly with the latest Census and American Community Survey and housing data. &nbsp;And the need for schools should be based upon more realistic ten-year housing trends – not just five-year trends, as it usually takes far more than five years to site and build a new school.</p> <p>Class Size Matters and other parent leaders are proposing these and additional critical reforms to the school planning process to the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission so the city’s students are not left in even worse conditions in the years to come. Meanwhile, the Amazon deal should be scotched or revamped, because, as is stands, it is yet another giveaway to a corporate giant with no consideration of the need to alleviate the overcrowded schools and classrooms under which the neighborhood’s children struggle to learn.</p> <p>If New York City is to thrive and offer opportunities to all its residents, we must ensure that investment in our public schools is a top priority for all agencies, including those focused on economic development. School construction should be the first consideration in all our development goals, rather than added as an afterthought years later, when the overcrowding has become too extreme to ignore. In the end, our investment in education will provide far better financial returns than yet more public land and tax giveaways to developers and corporations.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is Executive Director of Class Size Matters; Sabina Omerhodzic is a Long Island City resident and a member of the Community Education Council in District 30.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Addressing NYC's School Overcrowding Crisis 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6210-addressing-nycs-school-overcrowding-crisis Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</p>