Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MBP Stringer Report: Manhattan Boom Without Schools

From: Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer [mailto:bp@manhattanbp.org]
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 3:18 PM
To: Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer

Please follow the link to Borough President Stringer's report entitled "Crowded Out: School Construction Fails to Keep Up with Manhattan Building Boom." In addition, see press release below announcing the release of the report.



Report from Borough President Stringer shows school planning fails to match development boom

New York, NY (April 14, 2008) - Manhattan's development boom, which has led to at least 40,000 new apartments approved for construction over the past eight years, has not been matched by an increase in seats in neighborhood elementary and middle schools, according to a neighborhood-by-neighborhood study released today by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

In fact, in four neighborhoods at highest risk for neighborhood-wide school overcrowding - Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village/SoHo, the Upper East Side and Madison Square/Flatiron - the city approved enough new buildings to add up to 2,300 new students to K-8 schools while increasing total school capacity in these areas by only 143 seats.

Borough President Stringer said, "This is a story of simple math. Building thousands of new apartments that flood our schools with new students - while creating hardly any new school seats - just doesn't add up. Manhattan's residential building boom - which is creating new homes for future generations of New Yorkers - hasn't been matched by a realistic school planning program. New units are going up - and stroller brigades are filling the streets -- in neighborhoods where the schools are already at capacity or seriously overcrowded."

Among the report's key findings:

Four areas of Manhattan are at especially high risk of neighborhood-wide school overcrowding, according to DOE's own data:

  • Lower Manhattan, where every single elementary and middle school was close to or over capacity in the last school year;
  • The Upper East Side, where 5 of 6 elementary schools were over capacity in the last school year;
  • The Greenwich Village-Soho area, where every elementary school was over capacity in the last school year, and where not a single middle school exists; and
  • The Flatiron-Madison Square midtown neighborhoods, which have no elementary schools and just one middle school.

From 2000 to 2007 the city approved enough new buildings to add up to 2300 new students to these four neighborhoods alone. During the same time period, the Department of Education added only 143 seats to just one of these four neighborhoods - lower Manhattan - and no new seats at all to the other three.

Nor has the rapid growth taking place in Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, the Upper West Side, or Harlem been met with new school construction over the past eight years.

"The lack of planning for additional seats in our public schools against the backdrop of our dramatic residential construction boom has been a concern for Manhattan residents and, indeed, for New Yorkers across the five boroughs. As the Borough President has noted, planning from the neighborhood level is imperative, as is more forward-thinking and responsive capital planning." said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

"Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's report confirms what parents and communities have been telling me up and down the East Side: our schools are overcrowded now and are getting worse every year. That's why Comptroller Bill Thompson and I recently initiated a joint letter from elected officials to Chancellor Klein asking him about the growing shortfall in classroom seats in School District 2, and that's why the Borough President's report offers a timely and badly needed wake-up call," said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney," said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

"It shouldn't take a crystal ball to plan new schools to accommodate the obvious rapid growth in the construction of residential units in Manhattan. Many city agencies that must approve building permits and other measures for new apartments, condominiums and co-ops are aware of the boom, so why are the folks at the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority not in the loop? Perhaps school overcrowding has become so pervasive in the city that complaints about it are falling on deaf ears at those agencies. They better start listening and doing a better job of planning because middle class families will not want to stay in any neighborhood that cannot provide good schools with adequate space for their children," said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

"Over the next four years, more seats in sports stadiums are projected to be built than seats in our public schools. If NYC children are going to have the opportunity to have a quality education, I hope this report will spark a wider recognition that the current system of planning - or non-planning - must be fundamentally reformed," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters.

The study found that Manhattan's overcrowded elementary and middle schools are already 3,900 students over capacity overall. That means that the Department of Education's current plan for new seats - 4,300 over the next five years -- will barely be enough to relieve existing overcrowding, without any significant provision for future growth or class size reduction.

"By the time the City spends five years plugging the existing hole in the dam, another one will have opened up. We need to start planning for new development as it happens, rather than waiting for it to overtake us."

The Borough President has proposed a three-point plan for DOE to overhaul is school construction and planning processes so that it is adequate to serve New York's growing population:

  • The DOE and SCA must plan for growth, by developing a clear, transparent procedure for projecting and estimating the amount and location of expected new housing development.
  • The DOE and SCA must plan at the neighborhood level, rather than solely through the lens of Community School Districts.
  • Finally, this Fall, the DOE and SCA must propose a much more aggressive five-year capital plan for fiscal years 2010-2014 than was adopted for the previous five years, with enough seats to relieve existing overcrowding, plan for future growth, and reduce class size.

"New Yorkers have a reasonable expectation that they won't have to send their elementary-age children miles away to find space in a school - but the current planning and building process isn't getting the job done. With children under five the fastest growing group in Manhattan - increasing 32 percent over the past seven years -- the Department of Education has to come up with an accurate process for tracking where growth is happening, and to plan for it on neighborhood level. We also need a much more aggressive capital program that will add seats in the neighborhoods that need it most and give us the ability to lower class size for all children."

Borough President Stringer added, "With the growth we see around us - and the city's projections that we will have a million new residents in the coming decades - this is a problem that can't wait for a solution."

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