This Brooklyn Heights Mom is Furious After Last Night’s P.S. 8 Town Hall on Overcrowding

The following is a guest post from a Brooklyn Heights Mom/friend of Homer’s who had a few things to say about last night’s P.S. 8 Town Hall on overcrowding:

If I was a Twitterer, I would have live tweeted this meeting because there was a fair amount of ridiculousness. Here is my tape delayed version of just what went down:

The presidents of the PS 8 PTA thanked everyone for coming and announced that we had several local politicians as well as representatives from the DOE in attendance.

RELATED: P.S 8 Town Hall Addressed Overcrowding

The agenda would be their presentation, followed by short remarks from our elected officials followed by a Q and A.

Their presentation was bleak.

The school is already at 150% capacity. There are no space for music, art, etc. The gym and recess yards are minuscule. The cafeteria is a mob scene. Awesome. Just where I want to send my kid to Kindergarten. Regretting the decision not to apply to private school.

Next up is Daniel Squadron, who is, incidentally the only local politician who didn’t give up on LICH when DiBlasio became mayor and stopped giving a sh*t about Brooklyn. He’s worried. He wants to find a solution so we don’t all have to flee to New Jersey. Apparently there was the same issue in Lower Manhattan and they built another school and we are all cool now.

He is following by Jo Ann Simon, who if I had voted this year I would have voted against her because she killed at least 5 trees with the amount of campaign mail that she sent me. She talks for a minute and says nothing.

Next up councilman Levin. Oh wait, he’s late. Back to depressing slides about the thousands of new apartments that have popped up since we moved here in 2008.

Side note that when we bought our place in a pre-war building one of the things that was so appealing about Brooklyn Heights is that there were no empty lots to build new glass towers on and the neighborhood wouldn’t change.

They start taking questions. First question: “why the f*ck are buildings north of Jay st zoned for PS 8, when PS 307 is right there (like literally 2 blocks north off of Front St).”

DOE canned answer: “rezoning isn’t off the table”.

Next question: “Does the PTA have a preference or a recommendation at this time?” Answer “we’re no fools. This is too political and we are not going to p*ss anyone off by doing anything other than stating the facts”

The woman who stands in front of Trader Joe’s trying to get people to oppose building a tower where the library is stands up. Duh, build a school on the library site. Cheers erupt.

Oh look! Councilman Levin has arrived. This is where the meeting starts to turn into a sh*tshow because he’s totally unprepared and fumbling and pretty much says nothing.

This guy is a joker.

Then the PTA presidents make the mistake of letting Doug Biviano ask the next “question” which turns into his campaign for the next council elections. Our friend calls him “the Teamster”. If he wasn’t using a meeting about OUR KIDS as a platform for his political future, I might have voted for him. (Publisher’s Note: Doug has 3 kids, all have gone to or are in P.S. 8)

Next question: “would the DOE consider moving the 5th grade into the middle school to make more space in the Lower School?” Great Idea!!!

Canned DOE answer “that’s on the table.”

Next question: “what are they using the school in the Dock Street building for?” DOE lady gives a vague answer that translates into “we have no f*cking idea”.

Next question (disclaimer – from the awesome asst head of my kids preschool) “when are you going to figure out how many kids will be accepted into K next year and what alternatives will then be given?”

Literally the DOE lady had NO idea what the answer was. She kept rambling about K applications being due in the fall. The gist of it is that nobody will know anything until at least April.

Some guy from the CEC (Community Educational Council, according to Google) starts talking about how this is a district wide issue from here to Bed Stuy and we should seek out other school and make them exceptional just like he did when he took a chance on PS 8 10 years ago.

Ok, now you want me to send my kid to school in Bed Stuy. When you took a chance on PS 8, it was in your neighborhood, so that argument only flies if you live like a block away from PS 307.

Beyond that there were more inane comments from Levin and a promise from Squadron and the guy from whatever dept at the DOE is in charge of buildings to bring in someone from the DOE who actually knows what they are talking about to answer questions.

In the interim, those of us with kids born in 2010 were encouraged to look at alternative options for next year.

It boiled down to these options for both long term and short term solutions:
1. Rezone
2. Increase class size
3. Build more schools
4. Have a lottery and bus kids out

Build more schools would be the ideal outcome. The library space is feasible. What about Squibb Park does anyone actually use it? What about Hillside Dog Run?

Talked to some friends afterwards and everyone is just freaked out about next year. Thanks again for making this all public AFTER private school applications were due.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BHB. Tweets included in this piece are not from the author of the guest post.

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  • Solovely

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp says their 10 year old plans for more housing.. are “insignificant” to schools… their original 10-year old EIS they are defending said that schools had “capacity.”

    “After evaluating the potential impacts on 19 distinct environmental categories—including ***schools***, flood resiliency, traffic and open space—and incorporating any relevant updated changes to the project, the environmental regulations and background conditions, the technical memorandum concludes that the Pier 6 uplands project would not have any additional significant impacts,” according to a statement from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

  • PS8 parent

    I have no problem with anonymous comments, but an anonymous guest poster?! That’s a bit much IMHO. Why not just have her submit her post as a comment under the previous post announcing the meeting? Or send a “reporter” to cover the meeting?

  • CassieVonMontague

    No more anonymous guest posts, please. Or edit them so they comply with some standards. I would welcome this type of reporting in the comments section.

  • miriamcb

    I am beyond outraged by the handling of this situation by our officials and the very ineffective DOE. We moved to Brooklyn Heights for a number of reasons years ago, one of which being PS8. When we already live in an expensive city and it only makes sense to invest in a private school if you’re going to stay for the entire length of the schooling (if it does make sense given the economic climate/new economy and over-expensive degrees post k-12). Also, not everyone has that kind of $$ to put into private education. Public education in your zoned school is supposed to handle just that!

    This is a serious concern and affects people’s decisions to live in Brooklyn Heights. If I weren’t a resident already of years, I don’t think I’d counsel families with school age kids to come – no hospital, embattled library and services, over-crowded school and skyrocketing real estate prices. As it is, we still may not stay for these reasons.

    I find it ridiculous that our mayor continues to tout his universal pre-k when there are places cutting pre-k to make room for regular k-5 classrooms.

    I’ve worked in and with the DOE previously and I don’t have much faith that much will be solved even in the next few years – neighborhood development wise, space-wise or re-zoning.

    All of this leaves me so angry because I really do like the idea of Brooklyn Heights, but that idea is not really jiving with reality much anymore.

  • John

    The overcrowding issue isn’t something that just came up. it’s been going on for several years now. The pre-k was on the block for a couple of years before it was actually eliminated due to space restrictions, for example.

    If the author is claiming she did’t know about the overcrowding until last night, that’s all on her.

  • PS8 parent

    “Thanks again for making this all public AFTER private school applications were due.”

    With respect, private schools have not expanded to meet the demands of all these new area families; instead, your odds of convincing them to take your money are lower than Harvard’s acceptance rate at this point. Assuming you’re trying to stay in the neighborhood.

    This is something that many seem to miss – just because so many of these new households are living in million-dollar pads doesn’t mean they can just send their kids to private school. The public school system will have to absorb the families that move into all this new luxury housing because the private schools cannot expand to serve them all.

  • HG

    Every neighborhood preschool told families over the summer that P.S. 8 had capacity to accept all Kindergarten applicants next year. So we all knew about over-crowding, but were told that kids born in 2010 would NOT be affected. The fact that kids born in 2010 might be affected was only made public at the first PS 8 school tour in October.

  • deancollins

    I thought it was a great summary (and probably summed it up fairly…)

  • gc

    It should be getting clearer that talk alone is not going to solve this problem. The real estate interests have too much at stake for them to change course now. They have almost all the politicians in their pockets and the rest of us are just whistling in the wind. It will take some serious effort to change the way we’re headed.

  • David on Middagh

    I enjoyed this post, and commend the author for not contributing to the building boom. But to play Devil’s Advocate, how much effort must municipalities make to build new schools inside neighborhoods newly fashionable? The whole world seems to want to live in New York City, even Brooklyn, even Brooklyn Heights. Must the world be accommodated?

    People are sloshing around and wanting schools built where they wash up. (Meanwhile, Detroit has budgeted $1.7 billion to raze abandoned housing.)

  • William Spier

    There is a disconnect between the expectations of folks with young families and the realities of big city school systems. Real estate agents (who might very well gloss over the issue of school overcrowding to perspective buyers), retailers and developers etc. have a vested interest in a neighborhood’s population growing and turning over, and this conflicts with the high cost of capital projects, and the time it takes to secure space and fund those projects. Other parts of the city need vital attention given to their districts– for egregious inequities must be avoided.

    In the case of BH, a family in planning or one with very young children should think years ahead before locating here; and even that may not help because development and generational turnover can happen faster then a city can address costly school development and staffing. A generational turnover is desirable, actually vital to the maintenance of a neighborhood and its support of business. During the Bloomberg years development was given the green light without commensurate investments in new schools and buildings. Schools need high quality staff and best practices construction. Great teachers are a rare as tightrope walkers and high quality construction is expensive.

    Dumbo was allowed to rehab and develop before adequate schools could be opened–and that should have come first in the planning with the developers putting that money up first. Next the BBP housing will bring in many more families who will make unrealistic demands–which you cannot blame them for; but, the reality is that the City cannot keep up with the demands of a way presented by new housing developments and generational turnover.

    When seeking a place to live with good schools, young families are spreading out to improve heretofore less desirable neighborhoods. This is how it should be. A city remains vibrant if all corners of the city contribute to its urbanity and the can accommodate the issues of an attributable influx of people. The heartland does not have such a beg heart after all).

    The dynamics of NYC insulates it from many of the modernity issues other cities confront. But, due to its sheer size and complexity, the cost of upgrading services in NYC (like an overcrowded and decrepit subway system) becomes a national imperative. National imperatives are not in vogue.

    So, be forewarned young families: your kids are going to be in overcrowded classrooms in BH for some time. Those who think to move here had better talk candidly with real estate agents (probably pointless); and if you want to be here (which is good for us all), to complain about local politicians is pointless too. They know the score.

    So, anonymous above is blowing off steam. Anything she can suggest has been thought of before. I am sure the Department of Education is doing their best to accommodate, but, accommodation in NYC is always a few years away. My suggestion is that every real estate agent should be required to hand any folk planning a family, or with young children, a copy of the report produced annually on school district populations and see what is in the planning for that district. As harsh as it seems: If it does not work for you, go elsewhere.

  • Poplar

    It looks like Beth Eisgrau-Heller was serving as the BHB’s reporter for the meeting. See article right before the guest poster for her report.

  • Guest

    But what about those of us who have lived in Brooklyn Heights for years? Are you telling us to move because DUMBO is overbuilding and taking over the BH school when there is already another elementary school in Vinegar Hill that is less desirable?
    What do we do when the community where we have built our home, shopped the stores, patronized the restaurants and joined the churches / synagogues cannot provide a Kindergarten spot for our kids b/c glass towers are being built over a mile away and the people in those glass towers don’t want to send their kids to school with “kids from the projects” even though that school is across the street.
    If you can literally see PS 307 from out of the window of your glass tower, you should not be zoned for P.S 8.

  • Guest

    It would be great if the DOE gave priority in school placement to the families that have been living in the zone the longest.

  • johnny cakes

    Halt Residential Development – now. No more condos. Lease space for public school rooms – now.

  • PS H8

    As a current PS8 family with a child in Kindergarten, I don’t get the decision to allow so many “overage” children into the current Kindergarten class. Things were crowded to begin with, and we have a bunch of kids who have turned 6 or will be 6 by the end of this year. There are 24 kids in my child’s Kindergarten class and only one teacher! Why was this allowed??? This was not great thinking on the part of the administration, and it is that short sighted thinking that has me terrified of what the future may hold for our kids.

  • R.O.Shipman

    It does seem that if much of DUMBO were suddenly in P.S. 307, assuming that school has capacity, that school could also see a rapid improvement thus ultimately allowing for better environs for all public school students in the area.

    That being said, I hope at the very least, the city is keeping an eye on a watchtower facility or two that could host a new school. There has to be some building there that would work once they come on the market.

  • PubliusBklyn

    If you’re eyeing the land where Hillside Dog Park is located for a school, it will be over thousands of tax paying dog owners’ dead bodies. Many of whom, like myself, also have kids. Look elsewhere.

  • PJL

    As others have mentioned, the overcrowding issue is not new. What I found most striking at the meeting was that the people who should be most familiar with these issues (DOE, etc.) seem to have no real ideas for the future. It was as if they just found out last night that PS 8 is overcrowded…. The phrase ‘nothing is off the table’ was used several times (in response to questions re: re-zoning, etc.), but it seemed that it actually means nothing is on the table/no concrete solutions have been presented or considered to solve a problem that has been apparent for some time now…. If our elected officials/government/tax structures are going to keep encouraging and incentivizing new development, space for new schools should be required (similar to the plan to mandate inclusion of affordable housing).

  • Flowerpower

    Having kids who were “held over” is not the reason you have 24 kids in your child’s class. I believe less than 8 kids were allowed to do this for this year. My first PS 8 child (I have 3), started 7 years ago, and he had more overage kids in his class then. Sometimes there is an appropriate reason to allow this choice. And going forward, it will be a lost impossible to be able to make this choice. And we are still going to be overcrowded.

  • Christina

    That’s 8 more than should be there! Rules are rules, and they should not be bent. At least now they have no choice on that!

  • Flowerpower

    I said less than 8, and unless you know the specific reasons why this was allowed for each one of those children, be I would not make any judgment about “rules being bent”.

  • Poplar

    “That’s 8 more than should be there”
    Whether they are in K or 1st grade they’d still at PS8, and still need a seat.

  • CassieVonMontague

    “if I had voted this year I would have voted against her”…”She talks for a minute and says nothing”…”This guy is a joker”…”more inane comments from Levin”…This is hardly a summary.

  • Poplar

    Above comment meant for Christina

  • Christina

    By the time my infant son gets to be of age to go to PS8, there will most certainly be a lottery system I am sure, and we will have made the mistake of purchasing real estate at a very high price only to have his educational needs be iffy….I don’t trust that they will just automatically give priority to siblings…Yet they somehow find space for all the overage kids. This pisses me off. We should have stayed in Manhattan.

  • Reggie

    That was a fun read, although I agree with the people who are uncomfortable with an anonymous post. In fact, can BHB just label all the guest posts as op-eds? That said, OP seems to have missed a fundamental point, which undercuts some of the snark. The Department of Education isn’t making any major decisions until it sees the kindergarten applications and knows how many students total it is trying to accommodate. That is why many of DOE’s answers were, ‘everything is on the table,’ as unsatisfying as that may be.

    And although the DOE lady did give an oblique answer to the question, “when are you going to figure out how many kids will be accepted into K next year and what alternatives will then be given?,” someone else circled back and clarified: the dates are on our website; we weren’t more specific because we didn’t want to misspeak in public. That was also the guy who promised to come back early next year, not “to bring in someone from the DOE who actually knows what they are talking,” but to address the kindergarten issue specifically.

    I agree with OP, however, on many points. Senator Squadron, a frequent target in the comments here, was the only elected official with a substantive and constructive statement (as I find is often the case). The library site is too small for a school, but thank you very much Marsha Rimler. Councilman Levin is an absolutely awful public speaker. Don’t get me started on Doug Biviano. IS611 is going to open in DUMBO in September 2016; how the DOE lady did not know this boggles the mind. I don’t think the CEC president was suggesting anyone send their kid to school in Bed-Stuy, but I do think he was suggesting some DUMBO parents send their kids to PS307 (without coming right out and saying so). The alienation of parkland for a school site is a long-shot, to say the least. And with the last two points, I am back to correcting OP. If he or she cannot get their facts straight, they should at least put their name on the post.

  • bklyn20

    So, why don’t grandparents adopt their grandchildren, so they’ll get spaces in PS 8? Any Roebling descendants around? They should get first choice.

    Realistically, even if you don’t have kids, the very presence of a viable local public school increases your property values. People who own property should be concerned about school overcrowding, even the child-free.

  • PS8 Parent

    “The school is already at 150% capacity. There are no space for music, art, etc. The gym and recess yards are minuscule. The cafeteria is a mob scene. Awesome. Just where I want to send my kid to Kindergarten. Regretting the decision not to apply to private school.”
    Not true. Currently, there’s space for art, music, drama and dance. We’d like to keep it. Secondly, the cafeteria is big and new. Thirdly, theres going to be plenty of space in the school yard once the construction is finished.

    PS 8 is an amazing school with excellent teachers and staff. Kids who graduate from there go on to good middle schools.
    It has a hard working PTA that makes it what it is today.

    This overcrowding message wouldn’t have gone out if it weren’t for the PTA starting the conversation. Instead of complaining about a meeting that doesn’t meet expectations, why not be part the solution???

  • PubliusBklyn

    Your post is excellent. I’m a 48 year Brooklyn native. My family is likely packing up Q1 of the New Year and decamping for quite some time to a lake house in the Poconos where we can own something 4x the size we have now at 1/4 the price (no exaggeration), with good non-crowded schools, in a gorgeous natural setting and only 1.5 hours from NYC for a weekend visit. Glad to see Bklyn improve over the past decade or so, but for people with young families, it’s gotten to the point where even hardcore natives like me can no longer justify the cost/benefit. The bad school situation is just one facet. Hopefully Bklyn will always be here to return to some day.