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.

Share this Story:
  • Author of this Article

    Hi – I wrote this article and I wanted to address some of these comments:
    1. I chose to post anonymously b/c I am applying to P.S. 8 next year with a kid going into Kindergarten. It is not only our first choice school, but it is really our only choice. I do not want to criticize the DOE publicly and then see my name on a registration and not let my kid into the school.
    2. David, Wiliam, etc. – We bought our place in Brooklyn Heights way before we had kids and at the time, we did factor in the schools. PS 8 was “up and coming” with a brand new principal and we were excited to send our at-the-time-unborn children there. We also did not move to Dumbo b/c we wanted to avoid the new big building boom and potential overcrowding. Still, we might get screwed…
    3. To PS 8 Parent – you obviously weren’t at the meeting last night b/c the PTA parents talked about how they only have an art room and a music room and they will likely lose to those spaces next year. They also talked about overcrowding at recess and lunch. I’m glad to hear that it’s an eggageration. I *WANT* my kids to go to PS 8. I know several families there and they all rave about it!!! I want the community public school experience for them. I wrote this for an outlet, but I’m planning to get very involved in this issue and part of a group that is already planning some next steps.
    4. I was VERY VERY impressed with the PTA presidents. They are doing everything that they can to mobilize the community on this issue.
    5. Reggie – I did say that it is clear that there will be no decisions made by the DOE until the Spring. I get why, buy it’s unnerving and scary to those of us who need a spot for our kid next year, The CEC president, if that’s what he meant, then he should call out the people who live on Jay St and wont send their kids to 307 b/c it’s “diverse” to put it mildly. Sorry this all got lost in snark, I was really riled up last night when I sent this to Homer.

    6. Dock Street Middle School – I did a lot of research on this and could not find any reference other than a vague “planned 300 seat middle school”, so, that, coupled with the DOE’s lack of an answer makes it seem like it’s up for grabs. If the intention is for this space to be a middle school for 307, THAT will be an interesting dialog to witness…
    OK – in the words of the immortal Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate”, but I just want my kids to go to their local neighborhood school and I’ll do everything I can to make that possible

  • Slyone

    I responded to this in the post about the report the BH Blog put up, but way they find it “insignificant” is by comparing elementary school usage in “sub-district 2″ (what exactly that comprises doesn’t seem to be spelled out, unless I missed it — but it’s an area that serves more than 3,200 elementary students in several public elementary schools!) in 2018 with and without the 430 units. By 2017, it’s almost 4,700 students using public elementary schools in sub-district 2, so adding another 125 students (430 X .29 (the “Brooklyn ratio”)) doesn’t make enough of an impact percentage-wise, across that whole area to be “significant.” That’s the analysis, unless someone sees something I missed.

  • Doug Biviano

    Since my points from last night were omitted in the pursuit of being snarky, here they are. The PTA presentation (which was brilliantly clear in communicating the overcrowding issue) articulated the importance of short and long term solutions and invited a broad discussion of the problem. To those points, I responded in way that would be helpful in understanding and solving this problem, particularly some understanding of political, policy and economics driving the matter. There were two main points made.

    1. City Council Member Stephen Levin has considerable power to mitigate some of the overcrowding, certainly over the fate of the Brooklyn Heights Public Library or any project going through ULURP, which can impact PS8 going forward in several ways (my take is explained below but impacts were also presented by the PS8 PTA). Given CM Levin’s power, I asked him on the spot (twice) to publicly support a moratorium on the sale of the BPHL until the PS8 overcrowding issue is resolved. The second time I ask, CM Levin stated loud and clear that he could not do that.

    Before I asked him, I explained that the BHPL project must go through ULURP, a city process that the City Council Votes for approval. Most importantly, I explained how historically the City Council Member in the district of the project under review was normally deferred to by other Council members. In other words, with Levin asking for a Moratorium he could instantly derail the project. This would give the PS8 community significant leverage over the Mayor who really wants the library sold-off for affordable housing. Our overcrowding problem would get the full and immediate attention of the Mayor. Levin could do this with one press release or phone call to Mayor de Blasio given that they are long time friends and political allies.

    In my post meeting analysis of CM Levin’s split-second and unequivocal rejection of such a moratorium, it is clear that he is more aligned with development interests and the mayor (aka more overbuilding) than ensuring that we get the best possible outcome for our school under the PS8/MS8 banner. It also suggests to me that if a new school is built, it will not be in Brooklyn Heights proper and the PS8 district will be split.

    In terms of the impacts of the BHPL development, most obviously, the luxury residential hi-rise on this site will further add to the overcrowding and the BPL is pushing for the completion of this project fast and hard with major penalties for the developer if they don’t finish on time. Construction is planned to begin in 2016. The PS8 PTA had slides stating it would add to the PS8 overcrowding but wasn’t even included in the projections upwards of 1,200 seats presented because they were only looking at projects already approved.

    The other compelling interest in the BPHL site is that it could be the site for a PS8 School expansion and ought to be explored fully before disposing of it from public control to private developers. The site is perhaps the last NYC publicly owned parcel, aside from parkland, that is in Brooklyn Heights proper.
    2. We have to understand what got us into this rapid overdevelop that caused the overcrowding if we really want to get a grip on this situation (and other districts as well). I explained how our tax dollars were being used against us to harm us in the form of major tax abatements particularly the J51 for renovations of existing structures and the 421A for new construction on the NYS level (I didn’t even get into the Federal Historic Tax Credit). The result of these tax abatements were a one-two punch in that they provide powerful profit incentives that accelerate the overbuilding and cause school overcrowding but then there’s no money to build schools to keep up because the tax abatements deplete the tax revenues by tens of millions if not billions up to 25 years.

    The 25 year point was made in asking CM Levin and he happily shared this figure and I tied this into his earlier point of how anticipated commercial development ended up breaking ground as residential projects. These tools may have been helpful when many left NYC decades ago or in impoverished areas of NYS (and even that can be debated in terms of the gentrification and pushing out/up rooting of people from communities) but they are dangerous and harming much of Brooklyn right now. I did make the point that many politicians are fine with these abatements (and by deduction the overcrowding of schools) because developers and real estate special interests contribute to campaigns and get politicians elected.

    In this harmful context of lost tax revenue and overcrowding from overbuilding incentives, I then appealed to our NYS representatives Assembly-elect Jo Anne Simon and Senator Dan Squadron to bring this abatement policy problem to the fore and to work on it on the state level.

    In closing, I’m not sure how this was characterized as campaigning for some future office and I do invite the author to further conversation anytime. Nonetheless, I care deeply about the PS8 community as I have so many friends here and a second grader with four more years to go. I hope what I had to say is helpful for the greater community in understanding some of the challenges we are up against and that school overcrowding with depleted tax base from abatements will continue to haunt us and all of Brooklyn until a few elected officials are willing to address this policy problem and bring attention to it.

    Warm Regards,
    Doug Biviano

    PS, the amount of work the PS8 PTA did in creating their presentation, and it was crystal clear to the point, is overwhelming to think of and I thank them dearly.

  • Socioqueen

    What Doug Biviano said is spot on and the developer’s get to play cat and mouse while everyone out snarks each other. Address the root of the problem. Further, in Europe they do not allow a percentage (varies by country) of their housing by law to get purchased by foreign investors who price all the locals out of their purchasing power. PS8 is a public school that all my friends (and I’m in my 40s) grew up in and now they can’t even afford to live here or send their own kids to the community school THEY BUILT. Even the teachers who work there can’t afford to live here. Stop making demands with your money and snark and start bringing something meaningful to the table.

  • WOW

    amen. it is total self-serving political dribble…

  • WewillSurvive

    Just waned to note: I went to NYC public schools through high school. Generally had about 30-40 kids in grade school class. 1 teacher – sometimes a class helper… Turned out just fine. It’s not a crisis. It’s over capacity, yes. It ebbs and flows…

  • heights res

    PS 307 is a FANTASTIC school. Students in Dumbo and Vinegar Hill are fortunate they can go there. Stop the racist zoning games and fix the problem….

  • d13parent

    yes, that was a mistake. anyone who buys real estate in a crowded school zone (the capacity numbers are public) assuming that their unborn children will be able to go to that school is either naive or not paying attention. by the way, the same thing happens in manhattan.

  • d13parent

    PS 307 already has a middle school in its building. The Dock Street Middle School is found in the most recent SCA capital plan. Money was already allocated for 333 middle school seats (which would translate into far fewer elementary seats, and even fewer if pre-k is included). There are many THOUSANDS of parents all across the district whose kids aren’t at PS 8, don’t have a middle school attached to their elementary school, and desperately need the new middle school to stay a middle school. Because the DOE’s middle school choice scheme in this district has basically assured that there are no quality options outside of Arts & Letters and MS 8. So yes, there will certainly be dialog – to be honest, I expect that the interests of the predominately low-income and minority families of the rest of the district will be pretty handily over-ridden by … people like you… but that doesn’t mean we won’t try.

  • d13parent

    wow, you’re a peach. used to think that getting one or two overflow parents from PS 8 would be fun but if the point of this post is to show otherwise, you’ve succeeded! As for private schools, why don’t you try BASIS, they’re always taking applications and i’m sure they’d love an active parent such as yourself. and don’t forget the charter schools! by next year there will be 5 of them tailor-made for affluent families.

  • d13parent

    if you read carefully, it seems that the potential for a wait list is being driven by the PTAs insistence that they keep their cluster rooms instead of convert them to classrooms. many other schools in the district have already been forced to give up their cluster rooms for classrooms – which they have, due to co-locations, pre-k expansion, etc. it’s not unreasonable to want to keep space for art and music, but it is not as if this is a unique outrage being visited upon PS 8.

  • Dylan

    A wine fueled mommy summary.

  • Slyone

    The loss of cluster/specialty rooms is absolutely a problem across the city for a variety of reasons. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the potential for a wait list is being driven by the PTA’s insistence that they “keep” their cluster rooms. We’re already down 1 from what we’re supposed to have this year, and were down 2 last year (we only had an art room). We have 30 usable classrooms in the building; this year we are using 28. Next year, we lose 3 5th grade classes and — if everything is the same as it has been for the past 3 years, we will gain 6 K classes. That means we’d have 31 classrooms worth of kids, or more than we have in our building. Barring a mass exodus — which could happen, increasing cost of living does drive people out of the neighborhood — the option is to condense more grades into very large (27-32 kids) classes AND lose MORE cluster rooms. Within 2-3 years, even that is no longer an option; we just don’t have the space.

    I just looked through the cluster rooms required/reported in last year’s blue book, and PS8 was very close to the top of the list in D13 in terms how many cluster rooms it was short. There was a handful of others right there with it, but the overwhelming majority of D13 schools actually reported more cluster rooms that they were “required” to have.

    I know that all schools — and many D13 schools — have challenges; I would like to think there are ways we find common ground, instead of denigrating the legitimate concerns of our sister schools.

  • Ann B Chapin

    YES! Someone contact Jared Kushner <sp? since his company bought all the JW property!!

  • StoptheChop

    The Dock Street middle school was one way Walentas got support for his monstrosity from Marty Markowitz and the City Council.

  • d13parent

    There should be ways of finding common ground, absolutely. But it is always a question of resource allocation and priorities. From the other posts on this subject I’ve read, it seems the PTA is politically savvy enough to at least recognize that the solutions will affect the rest of the district. However, from the parents in the audience and this anonymous post from “furious mom,” what comes across the strongest is that parents in the PS 8 zone deserve to keep their small class sizes and cluster classrooms, to keep their extraordinarily privileged school zone intact, and to “grab” the middle school space at Dock Street for itself.
    This was echoed by your politicians, who promised to make PS 8’s concerns “the number one priority” for the DOE, yet insisting the solution would not be to rezone, despite the undercapacity at nearby schools? What else would that mean, other than building or leasing new space?
    I don’t think anyone believes your concerns aren’t legitimate, but it may be quite difficult to find common ground when so much of the apparent argument is based on the continuation of advantages that are exclusive to anyone else in the district. I am curious (not being snarky here) to know where you think the common ground is, and how you think the diversion/devotion of the district’s resources to PS 8 is going to benefit the rest of the district. I think if you could incorporate that into your message then perhaps it would be easier for non-PS 8 community members to get on board.

  • d13parent

    Yes, I’m aware. Also aware that most of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO (including most of the other politicians) came out against it. But here it is.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Guest post labeled as an op – Ed would be redundant.

  • Hicksandthrope

    No offense – posting a snarky, ill-conceived message from an angry “friend” doesn’t help this very serious issue. It borders on irresponsible, if I dare say.

  • Hicksanthrope

    Tell us specifically why it’s fantastic.

  • heights res

    It’s fantastic because the Principal, Roberta Davenport is fantastic. She’s an incredibly experienced, bright and serious educator who is truly dedicated to the students, staff, parents and community.

    She has worked non-stop since taking over as Principal, to improve, enhance and build a quality experience for all involved (not too different from what Seth Phillips had to do at PS8, just harder). Innovative programs keep coming, private institutions, the Federal govt, companies want to work with her.
    She’s the real deal!!

    Shame if fear prevents parents from seeing the gem in their midst….

    From Inside Schools:
    “In District 13, PS 307 is developing a reputation as a school where good things are happening. PS 307’s pre-kindergarten program is attracting children of middle class families in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. Students with special needs from throughout the district come for the school’s excellent ASD Nest program.

    Unlike some nearby schools, enrollment is increasing instead of falling.

    Principal Roberta Davenport is credited for the school’s tone and progress. She has forged partnerships with city and neighborhood agencies as well as artists and entrepreneurs.

    A $1.8 million magnet grant for science and math education (STEM) provides hands-on science and math at least three hours per week to each child, featuring projects that engage children. In a farm-to-table curriculum, 4-year-olds learn to compost table scraps and create gardens; outside educators teach 6-year-olds wearing lab coats to dissect squid, and 5th-graders eagerly compete to see whose structure will be highest in the “marshmallow challenge.” The grant also brings much-needed to technology to the school as well as outside experts.

    PS 307 was chosen to be a host school for the Department of Education’s Learning Partners program, based on its “holistic approach to meeting all students’ academic, social and emotional needs.” Weekly lessons focus on the four “R’s”—reading, writing, respect and resolution. A Mandarin-speaking teacher gives language immersion lessons to the youngest children.

    Students are trained to become mediators, and there are consequences for bad behavior.

    Teachers tend to stay at PS 307 and give the principal high marks for her leadership.”

  • Jazz


  • BrooklynBugle

    It”s one person’s opinion.

    This is a blog meant to be a platform for thoughts, feelings and opinions of the community. Your opinion may differ – THAT’S THE POINT.

    Guest posts have been written by our electeds, those running for office, “regular” folks and others. What would be irresponsible is ignoring those voices.

    Should this parent be concerned? Of course.

    I’m a parent of a child born in 2010. I’m told that I shouldn’t be worried about her getting into K next year.

    I also went to public school in the 70s when it was a real joy ride. We had 28 – 32 kids in a class. We had teachers who should have been put in the infamous “Rubber Room” who were never relieved of their duties.

    I’m looking at you 7th grade math teacher.

    Did we all turn out ok? Sure, but it could have been much better.

    What we’re at risk of at PS 8 is undermining the work of Mr. Phillips, the teacher and PTA to make the school great.

    Remember making the school a quality one was one of the three aims of CCIC – aka the folks who achieved landmark status for Brooklyn Heights – in 1958.


    If BHB existed in 1958 would you have dismissed a guest post from Otis Pearsall, Martin Schneider or Edwards Rullman?

    Note that we also reported about the meeting here, and the PTA commended Beth’s report saying it was accurate and comprehensive.

    – Homer

  • Hicksanthrope

    It’s an upsetting issue and one may think this type of post is harmless. Rest assured,it undermines the work of Mr Phillips and the PTA .

  • BrooklynBugle

    It only proves all involved haven’t communicated well enough for the average person to understand what’s going on.

  • hicksanthrope

    And yet it was understood pretty clearly in another post on this very blog.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Now you’re getting it.

  • hicksanthrope

    And you still aren’t

  • PS8 Parent

    Thanks. Beth’s piece wasn’t there when the Guest blogger’s was added.

  • PS8 Parent

    So which is it, Publius?! Ar you moving to Poconos or ready to go down in a blaze of glory over the conversion if the dog run into a school? (note: I also have a dog that uses Hillside)