BHB Guest Post: NYS Senator Daniel Squadron on Brooklyn Heights’ Overcrowded Schools

Editor’s Note: At the invitation of BHB, Senator Daniel Squadron of New York’s 26th Senate District agreed to the following opinion piece about Brooklyn Height’s overcrowded school system.

School started last week.

Brooklyn Heights’ local public school is not just wildly popular, with a great administration and engaged students and parents. PS 8 on Hicks Street, which serves Brooklyn Heights and part of DUMBO, is also among the most overcrowded schools in all of New York City: according to the School Construction Authority, in the 2013-14 school year, the school had capacity for 524 students, but was actually attended by 742 students.

There is no single solution for overcrowding at P.S. 8. But having a school system that did a better job of identifying where its needs will be, not just along school district lines, but in neighborhoods, and making sure that the community has a role in the planning, would make a difference.

And, despite a recent addition to the school, this year P.S. 8 is not part of the exciting expansion of Pre-K in our city—its program was discontinued to alleviate the overcrowding.

As a parent with young children myself, I’m well aware that knowing whether or not a local school has space for its neighborhood’s children is fundamental to a family’s ability to make a life and invest in a community.

And it is likely to get worse. There are hundreds of new units planned within the P.S. 8 zone, and absolutely no plan to deal with the increase in school kids that is certain to result.

There is no single solution for overcrowding at P.S. 8. But having a school system that did a better job of identifying where its needs will be, not just along school district lines, but in neighborhoods, and making sure that the community has a role in the planning, would make a difference.

That’s why for five years I pushed a bill in the Senate to require the school system to change the way it projects the number of seats needed in our city’s neighborhoods. Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo signed it into law.

The Student Population Projection and Transparency Act (also sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) requires better and more local data when projecting the number of seats needed in a given neighborhood. The law we passed requires the school system to coordinate with agencies that track population trends, like Health, Buildings, Housing, and City Planning. It also requires that student population projections are produced at the community board level, instead of relying on often misleading district-wide numbers. Finally, it increases the requirements for transparency and responsiveness to parent input.

Together, the bill will provide a more accurate indication of growth trends and school needs in neighborhoods even before new buildings are built, give parents additional tools to fight for what their community needs, and push the School Construction Authority to plan ahead more effectively.
For years, Brooklyn Heights residents have known what the Department of Education didn’t sufficiently plan for: that we desperately need more classroom space.

Daniel Squadron is serving his third term representing New York’s 26th Senate District, which includes the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Vinegar Hill, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and the Manhattan neighborhoods of Tribeca, Battery Park City, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, the Financial District, Little Italy, SoHo, and the East Village.

In the Senate, Senator Squadron has worked to: strengthen affordable housing; promote comprehensive, community-empowering economic development; enhance regional transportation infrastructure; protect the most vulnerable in our society; and secure parks and open space for all communities.

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  • marshasrimler

    Daniel.. this is smart thinking.. however posting it the day before
    the 52nd ad primary makes me somewhat curious about your motives.. I guess you will be at ps 8 tomorrow.. supporting your candidate pete sikora..who is a paid lobbyist with a thin community record.. so again i am curious about your motives

  • e

    Daniel, as long as we have you: any update on the helicopter situation over Brooklyn Bridge Park?
    Thanks —
    BHB Reader

  • gc

    It just gets worse and worse. Like a scene out of Apocalypse Now!

  • Monty

    I’ve been emailing back and forth with Councilman Levin’s office over a related issue. Until the construction at PS8 is finished the outdoor space is mostly inaccesible meaning there isn’t room for all the kids to have recess on school grounds. Last Spring the solution was to take kids to Squibb Park. A few weeks before school started, Squibb Park (and the footbridge to Pier 2) were inexplicably closed to the public with no reason given nor any expected date to reopen. It seems that the closure was at the request of the Pierhouse construction crew which, if true, is unacceptable. The kids need outdoor physical activity.

  • Doug Biviano

    Take a look at Atlantic Yards Report Norman Oder’s analysis to see that Doug Biviano’s top campaign priorities is the only campaign to address the school overcrowding issue but to pin it to rapid overbuilding and to stopping the tax breaks, abatements and public giveaways to developers that deny us the tax $$$ to expand schools and hire more teachers when we need them. The other 2 candidates are so out-of-touch on this issue it’s alarming. Squadron talking about it now and not in context of overbuilding our community is alarming too but not surprising.

  • Remsen St Strollin

    Dumb question: is the school under construction as part of the Dock St project in Dumbo going to be an entirely new middle school or will PS 8’s new middle school (MS8) move in? Is there any view that the Dock St facility could have enough space to take an elementary school or perhaps some grades of an elementary school?

  • anon

    Hey Danny,

    I’m glad you’re against overcrowding at PS 8, but then why’d you allow housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park when you actively campaigned against it when you defeated Marty Connor? Won’t that park housing further increase the PS 8, and PS 29, crowding?

  • Lady in the Heights

    I believe the buildings in the park are all zone for PS 8.

  • Mary

    I know this is off-topic for P.S. 8 but — Apocalypse Now? Exactly! Helicopters are for military and emergency use, not for tourism nor commuting.

  • Mary

    Back on topic – St. Ann’s, a private school, uses Cadman Park for recreation. Could P.S. 8?

  • MonroeOrange

    i believe they pay fees to use it…

  • Still Here

    The Dock St project allows for 300 seats (at least when it was proposed). I was informed by a career bureaucrat that the space is too small to qualify as a NYC public middle school, or even an elementary school. Anyone know for sure? I suspect it will become a charter school.

  • Mary

    Right, and as a private school they should. But, if Squibb is P.S. 8’s designated playground and is currently unavailable for recreation, why shouldn’t the Parks Department offer Cadman, if only temporarily? They’re both public parks.