Government Officials Call for Meeting with Chancellor Klein to Address School Overcrowding in School District 2

Apr 15, 2008
Press Release

New York, NY - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) and Comptroller Bill Thompson along with Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Senator Tom Duane, State Senator Martin Connor, Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, Assemblyman Micah Kellner, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, Councilman Dan Garodnick, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, and Councilman Alan Gerson sent a letter to Chancellor Joel Klein calling for a meeting to discuss the severe overcrowding problem in School District 2.

More than two-thirds of the elementary schools in the District operate over capacity with several schools operating at or exceeding 150 percent of capacity.  As a result, principals have been forced to cut pre-kindergarten programs, eliminate art and music programs, or schedule lunchtime early in the school day.  The Department of Education has not made public any plan to address overcrowding in District 2.

Although District 2 has the second highest enrollment projections in New York City, the entire borough of Manhattan was allocated only 5 percent of the total school capital funding budget of $4.7 billion dedicated for New Capacity, a mere $151.14 million of which is being directed to District 2.  

“Elementary schools in Manhattan, particularly in District 2, are experiencing an overcrowding crisis. The Department of Education has not allocated enough money in its Capital Plan to build the schools we need in the communities where overcrowding is severe, and it has offered no solutions thus far.  Parents in District 2 deserve to know Chancellor Klein’s short term and long term plans to address the severe and growing overcrowding taking place in their children’s schools,” Maloney said.  “It is astonishing that the DOE has allowed it to get to this point without coming up with a plan to solve this problem.

“Despite State mandates to reduce class sizes, the Department of Education has failed to adequately address our children’s needs. Community School District 2’s overcrowded classrooms are unfortunate examples of the Department of Education’s failure to have a strategy to deal with the City’s growing need for more classrooms,” Comptroller Thompson said. “The time to reduce class sizes in our public schools is now. At stake is nothing less than the fundamental right of our students to a quality education.”

"As my recent report demonstrates, building thousands of new apartments that flood our schools with new students, while creating hardly any new school seats, just doesn't add up.  We need to match Manhattan's residential building boom with a realistic school planning program that will relieve existing overcrowding, plan for ongoing growth, and lower class size system-wide," said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.

"Overcrowded classrooms lead to poor conditions for learning. The DOE must make smart investments in additional school seats to help reach graduation goals and ease the burden on communities hit hardest by overcrowding. We have a responsibility to give students the learning environment they need to succeed," said Public Advocate Gotbaum

With the rise of developments in Manhattan, thousands of families have moved into Manhattan causing a strain on the Elementary and Middle Schools. According to Borough President Scott Stringer’s recent report "Crowded Out: School Construction Fails to Keep Up with Manhattan Building Boom," Manhattan’s overcrowded elementary and middle schools are a total of 3,900 students over capacity. Many of the overcrowded schools are being forced to drop programs, eliminate pre-K classes and take other steps, causing many parents to be concerned about the quality of education being offered in District 2’s elementary and middle schools.

The text of the Government Officials’ letter to Chancellor Klein follows.

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Joel I. Klein

Chancellor

New York City Department of Education

52 Chambers Street

New York, NY 10007

Dear Chancellor Klein:

We write to express our mutual concern and our wish to meet with you regarding the Department of Education’s failure to adequately plan for critically needed new schools within Community School District 2. We request a meeting with you to discuss this important issue. 

As you know, more than two thirds of the elementary schools in the district now operate beyond capacity with several schools operating at or exceeding 150 percent of capacity. We are deeply troubled by the lack of an appropriate near-term strategy to address this issue.  This strategic failure is further reflected by the fact that three of the most overcrowded schools are located near the former PS 151 which was closed without an appropriate plan to relocate the children attending that school. The families in the catchment area for former PS 151 still do not have a zoned school and all the schools near the old zone are well over capacity making it important that the Department of Education build a new elementary school in this community.

We also note that despite District 2 having the second highest enrollment projections in the City, capital funding commensurate with this need has not been allocated.  Indeed, according to the February 2008 Proposed Amendment to the 2005-2009 Capital Plan, the entire borough of Manhattan was allocated only 5 percent of the total school capital funding budget of $4.7 billion dedicated for New Capacity, a mere $151.14 million of which is being directed to District 2.  This is both inadequate and unacceptable. We would like to know what the School Construction Authority’s plan is to find new sites in School District 2 including the 501 un-sited seats listed in the 2005-2009 Capital Plan.

Many of the overcrowded schools are being forced to drop programs, eliminate pre-K classes and take other steps that will seriously impair the quality of education being offered.  At a number of schools in this area, we have been made aware of instances where children’s lunchtimes were scheduled so early in the day that it nearly overlapped with breakfast. 

Lastly, while we are mindful of the plan to construct a new school at the Con Ed Waterside site, we are concerned that this school will not be open until 2012 and cannot by itself address the existing overcrowded conditions in this community. We note that despite a recent meeting with representatives of DOE and the School Construction Authority, no solution has been offered to address short term needs. Further, there has also only been one school proposed to handle the influx of students from the proposed developments in the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea. We therefore ask to meet with you in an effort to address these very serious concerns.

We look forward to your reply.                                                                                        

Very truly yours,

CAROLYN B. MALONEY                                                     WILLIAM C. THOMPSON, JR.

Member of Congress                                                          NYC Comptroller

           

SCOTT STRINGER                                                            BETSY GOTBAUM

Manhattan Borough President                                           NYC Public Advocate

 

SHELDON SILVER                                                             TOM DUANE

Member of Assembly                                                       State Senator

           

LIZ KRUEGER                                                                  MARTIN CONNOR  

State Senator                                                                 State Senator                               

 

BRIAN P. KAVANAGH                                                        RICHARD N. GOTTFRIED

Member of Assembly                                                      Member of Assembly

 

JONATHAN L. BING                                                          MICAH KELLNER

Member of Assembly                                                      Member of Assembly

 

DANIEL R. GARODNICK                                                    ROSIE MENDEZ

City Council Member                                                       City Council Member

 

JESSICA LAPPIN                                                             ALAN J. GERSON

City Council Member                                                       City Council Member

 

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