The Elephant in the Room: P.S. 8 Re-Zoning Town Hall Meeting Re-Cap

On Wednesday night, at the first of two town scheduled town hall meetings, representatives of the DOE’s Department of District Planning presented their draft re-zoning proposal for Brooklyn Heights’ P.S. 8 at P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill.  The proposal was presented to the CEC on September 1st.  As previously reported, it essentially cuts the current P.S. 8 zone in half and relegates all of Dumbo and Vinegar Hill to P.S. 307. Concord Village remains in the proposed P.S. 8 zone.  Greg Whitten, DOE Associate Director of District Planning explained the need to re-zone “began with the [Kindergarten] wait-list at P.S. 8.  We saw the zone was too large.”  Director of Planning, Tim Castanza added, “I feel comfortable saying the P.S. 8 zone is one of the largest in the Borough [of Brooklyn], even city-wide.  On the flip side, 307’s is one of the smallest.” In 2014 the current zones yielded 162 Kindergarten age students living within the P.S. 8 zone while 307’s zone had 17 students residing within its borders.


Current P.S. 8 zone shown in Blue. Current P.S. 307 zone shown in pink.

The presentation also illustrated how the the demographics of each school would change. Presently, P.S 8 is comprised of 34% minority students while 307 currently has 95% minority students.  The proposal’s projections show P.S 8’s minority student population would drop to 25-35% and 307’s would shift to 55-65% minority students.


Emotions ran high during the question and answer period and several themes emerged. Gentrification was front and center.  Rev. Dr. Mark V. C. Taylor, Pastor of The Church of the Open Door, was first to speak, at times to thunderous applause. “This plan is based on the needs of one community, P.S. 8. It is P.S. 8-centric. That also means, that it is ignoring the other community that is involved…There are issues of race and class that need to be figured out that are not here…we can come up with a plan that preserves the excellence and the leadership [of 307] that gives them time to work out their vision, does not send another group of people in here angry and ready to make changes and that brings all of us on the same page. Because, you don’t have a lot of institutions in America where the majority of white folk are willing to function under black leadership. That’s just the truth.”

A Farragut Houses resident and parent of a small child spoke passionately her voice breaking at times, “We fought hard to build this school. And we’re not just going to let people come from outside when we worked so hard and dedicated ourselves. Our blood sweat and tears are here…I don’t have no problem working with anybody. But I’m not going to let anybody take from my daughter. She is the future.”

Tiara Puglisi, an out-of-zone P.S. 307 parent commented, “My son is in Kindergarten right now. I think we’re talking about things, we’re dancing around. He is the only white child in his class. And that makes me feel like, ‘how are we going to integrate in a world where I would expect more white children in his class?’ But it doesn’t happen that way. And when kids can’t get into P.S. 8 you’re all decrying ‘my son didn’t get into pre-k!’ why aren’t you sending them to 307 now, like we are? So, I have a hard time thinking that it’s going to be a seamless integration because I haven’t seen that here so far.”

Throughout the night comments from attendees from both neighborhoods called for new schools. CEC Member Ed Brown addressed the crowd, “I want to clarify something…There is space in this school [307], there’s space at 287, there’s space in 67, there’s space in 46. So there’s something else going on here…the elephant in the room…we need to be honest with ourselves. Something else is wrong that we keep talking about new schools when there’s adequate seats already available.”


There were points on which attendees agreed: 1) The proposed re-zoning timeline is too short and 2) P.S. 287 should have been considered in the proposal.  P.S. 307 PTA Co-President, Faraji Hannah-Jones read a statement from a Farragut Housing resident which said, in part, “You’re going to overwhelm the P.S. 307 zone. And in a few years, we’ll be right back at the table to do this all over again. What is the rush? This process needs to be pushed back at least a year. Why is it that P.S. 287 couldn’t be in on the process?…This is putting a band aid on an open wound for temporary relief.”

Dumbo parent John Shook challenged the DOE  “I’ve gone to every single meeting about this and to bring [re-zoning] up on September first and try to implement it for next year is ludacrous.”  Another parent who identified himself as the parent of two boys said, “This seems like it was a very poorly thought out rushed process…we can say that Dumbo parents were really caught off guard by this and it appears from listening to the current 307 parents that they were also not involved in this discussion and that’s disturbing.”


Another Dumbo parent whose son received a spot in P.S. 8 in late August was compelled to share her experience, “we just went through a lot with P.S. 8 and my focus was going to be [on sibling grandfathering].  But I have to say with the way this meeting started, Ms. Davenport was so welcoming to us and as a wait-listed family she was so wonderful and she went on about how Dumbo was part of the bigger community.  I think as parents in this community it is our responsibility to teach inclusion and acceptance and to be one community.”

CEC Member Amy Shire queried attendees, “What I would be really interested in hearing from in this community is ‘What are the elements that people are looking for that would make it look like a good plan that people would come together around?’ What are the discussions that we need to have together? Or maybe some separately and some together? What are the things that people want to see implemented?”

As the evening began to wind down, the DOE’s Tim Castanza referred to conversations he held with the previous P.S. 307 Principal Roberta Davenport (who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year), the Interim Principal Stephanie Carroll, 307 teachers and parents.  “I wish we would have had a little bit more conversation about the positive things that are happening in this 307 community…I don’t want it to seem like there’s this idea that we’re going to take. That we’re coming in and that this re-zoning is taking resources away…We have this really wonderful school community that we want to grow. And that we have confidence that can continue to grow and continue to be excellent for more students in this district. I want to acknowledge that what we already have here is excellent.”

CEC President, David Goldsmith was also hopeful, “One of the things that’s clear…this is really about our children and I think what we see in the room here is a lot of passion for our children.”


The CEC will hold their next town hall meeting this Monday, September 21st 6:30-8 pm at P.S. 8 located at 37 Hicks Street.  The community may also submit comments, questions and concerns via the form on the CEC website.   Comments sent through this form are forwarded to the Office of District Planning, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the CEC simultaneously.

Feedback from the town hall meetings will be considered by the DOE as they prepare their formal proposal.  The DOE will then present its official proposal to the CEC and D13 Communities at the CEC’s next Calendar Meeting, on Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30 pm, at P.S. 307 (209 York St.).  There will be opportunity for public comment at this meeting as well.

The CEC is then required to vote on the official re-zoning proposal at a public meeting within 45 days of its presentation.  During that time, the community may continue to submit their feedback.  Full details of the re-zoning timeline and a schedule of CEC meetings are available on the CEC website.  To receive regular updates from the CEC, enter your email address in the left side-bar of the CEC website.



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  • Concerned

    I’m confused. This is a very touchy subject so this post is merely for my own edification as to the positions stated in this article. It sounds like the “elephant in the room” is that members/representatives of PS 307 are concerned about DUMBO families coming to PS 307. Is that correct?

  • Slyone

    I guess the author should speak to what she meant, but from my experience there and from how I read her piece, I was thinking the “elephant in the room” is race and class, and how those affect so many things — the way families might feel about being rezoned into the school, how families at the school now might feel about having DUMBO and Vinegar Hill zoned into their school, and perhaps also the perception/reality that the community within 307 now, and especially those in the Farragut Houses, had not been engaged in the process that led up to the DOE’s initial/draft rezoning proposal.

  • Andrew Porter

    Excellent post, Songbird.

    When I moved to Bklyn Hgts in the 1960s, no one wanted to send their kids to PS8. The kids were mostly bussed in from the projects. If people in BH couldn’t afford Packer or St. Ann’s, they moved to the suburbs when their kids hit school age. I remember half a dozen families with kids just in my building moving because they couldn’t afford private school costs.

    This all changed, slowly, to where PS 8 is incredibly desirable.

    The Farragut parents shouldn’t assume that their kids will lose out to DUMBO kids when they go to PS 307. The rezoning will mean that parents with lots of disposable income will get involved in 307’s PTA, and politically connected parents will put pressure on the DoE to make sure PS 307 gets its share of education funding. It will be a win-win for all parents and kids involved, whatever their race.

  • Concerned

    Reading this again and with the comments, I am a bit taken aback by the PS 307 “representatives”. I can’t put myself in their shoes, so I’d like some clarification beyond what this article can give, but for PS 307 to go from 95% minority to 55-65% minority sounds more like integration of a public school where we ALL live nearby each other, not gentrification. How is this a bad thing?
    It also seems like the DUMBO parents are being negatively stereotyped. Moreover, how is PS 307 under “black leadership”??? What does that even mean? Is PS 8 under “white leadership”??? These are public schools in Brooklyn, NY, for God’s sake.

    Like I said, I am working off the information in this article and I am severely undereducated in the minutia of either sides’ “representatives”.

  • HereToStay

    It is coming from racists — reverse racism, if you believe in that. From the event: “…Because, you don’t have a lot of institutions in America where the majority of white folk are willing to function under black leadership. That’s just the truth…” Basically, they don’t want “rich whites” from DUMBO coming to tell them how to run a school that they fought hard to make what they believe is a good place for their kids — and that they run their way for their benefit. In actuality — black/white aside — they may have a point.

  • Concerned

    Well, I’d like to think that their motivation comes from a much more noble place than racism, and I will continue to do so until proven different. However, the rhetoric can be insulting and counterproductive, especially between neighbors.

  • Reggie

    I think Rev. Taylor is confusing “P.S. 8-centric” with P.S. 8-prompted. I believe it is possible to alleviate over-crowding at P.S. 8 without causing P.S. 307 to divert it’s focus entirely to the incoming demographic. By that I mean, why assume the school principal and other leadership would be complicit in such a thing? With regard to Mr. Brown’s comments, I am not so sure that every under-capacity CSD13 school can be part of the solution. Some Dumbo and Vinegar Hill parents say they won’t send their children to a school (P.S. 307) that is a few blocks from their homes. How likely is it they will enroll their kids at P.S. 67?

  • Heightsman

    I’m a simple guy and think I get some of the issues:

    1. The 307 parents are happy with the status quo and don’t need a change or want it. Especially without any consultation.

    2. The DUMBO parents that are zoned for PS 8 don’t want a change given that they moved to the area based on PS 8 zoning and now might not get it for their future children.

    3. Nobody likes the speed of change (rezoning) regardless of current location.

    Fair assessment?

  • 1969

    I would guess that some PS307 parents are happy with the status quo and some aren’t, and that much of the opposition to the speed, if not the actual rezoning plan, comes from those in leadership positions among the current 307 community who weren’t consulted about the details before the public presentation of the rezoning scenario (which is a problem on all sides — not just the 307 community — it seems).

    I also think that those who lived through the wait list last year and think about what another wait list would mean for everyone, think that failing to plan for the coming year (what a wait list represents) is also not a good “solution.”

  • Reggie

    Yep. I see no prospect of the school zones being revised in time for the 2016-2017 academic year. I look forward to reading the news reports of last night’s town hall.

  • R.O.Shipman

    Reading reports on last night’s meeting, it appears that P.S. 307 is able to take advantage of some funding for schools with a majority of students in free lunch programs in order to create some pretty great sounding programs for the students. Some P.S. 307 parents/leaders, fear that the influx of the more well-off families from DUMBO could jeopardize that funding and ultimately those programs they worked hard to create.

    I agree that greater integration is a plus (it’s embarrassing that the two schools could have such segregation in 2015), but I understand the legitimate concerns coming from P.S. 307.

    As I think this rezoning needs to happen and ultimately will, what should be done is the new families coming into 307 should get involved and help secure funding for the great programs that already exist.

  • Concerned

    Thank you.

  • PS Teacher

    If PS 307 only had seventeen students in the zone entering kindergarten the school needs more kids period to sustain it. 17 kids doesn’t even fill one classroom and ultimately money and jobs would be lost at the school. Schools receive money based on their numbers and if they don’t have the numbers they lose out. The school I work at faced a similar situation with not enough kindergarten students entering which impacts growth for the whole school. The school went on an advertising campaign so they could keep the numbers up which meant keeping funding for programs and faculty.

    And yes a school receives more funding if it’s a Title 1 school which means the majority of the students are eligible for free lunch, they’ll likely loose that at some point. However, the gain the ability to fundraise more and be able to utilize the money more freely on programs they feel are important. Some PTA’s fundraise over 100k easily.

  • Andrew Porter

    “Race and Class Collide,” about the pairing, is an article in the Wednesday New York Times. Here’s a link (though the Times has a Paywall and this may not be accessible):

  • SongBirdNYC

    CEC Member and and 307’s Co-PTA President, Ben Greene advised me that 307’s Title 1 funding was $284K for the 2014-15 school year.

  • Poplar

    Based on the amount that the PS8 PTA raises, I imagine that if the influx of DUMBO families to PS307 becomes significant enough for the school to lose Title 1 funding, the donations that come along with those families would be larger than $284K.

    Now if only the schools got the funding that was owed to them by the state…