NYC Pols & Parents Urge Action on Overcrowding at P.S. 116

Jul 20, 2008
Press Release

New York, NY - Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Borough President Scott Stringer, Senator Tom Duane, Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and concerned parents joined forces today outside Public School 116 in east Midtown to urge immediate action by the City Department of Education to relieve serious overcrowding at the school.  The officials and parents released a fact sheet (below) detailing the growing crisis at P.S. 116, a K-5 school that is currently operating at 113% of capacity.

Participants in today’s press conference expressed concern that less than six weeks before the start of the new school year, the Department of Education has not released a plan to address overcrowding at P.S. 116.  Attendees said the crisis will get worse without the Department’s intervention: there are at least 40 high-rise buildings with an estimated 3,377 new housing units currently being built in the surrounding neighborhood. All of the new developments are zoned for P.S. 116 and most apartments are sized to appeal to families.

“You know a school is too crowded when lunch has to start at 10:20 in the morning,” Maloney said.  “Next year, P.S. 116 will have nearly 100 more students than the building is designed to hold.  Overcrowded schools do not make for healthy cities.  New York’s recent renaissance will not last if our schools have to put up ‘No Vacancy’ signs.  Six weeks before the start of the school year, the Department of Education still hasn’t offered any answers to this crisis.  We need new schools in Manhattan and unfortunately, we needed them yesterday.”

"My report, 'Crowded Out,' demonstrated that our city has allowed new development to add thousands of new students to our public school system, with no corresponding increase in public school capacity in high-growth neighborhoods," said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. "As the parents of PS 116 have ably demonstrated, nowhere is that truer than East Midtown, a high-growth neighborhood with a an excellent, but seriously overcrowded, public school.  It's time for the DOE to work with parents and teachers on real short-term solutions to this crisis, and it's time to reform the City's broken planning process that has gotten us into this crisis."

“The students and families at PS 116 have put up with overcrowding for far too long,” Kavanagh said.  “With the next school year just around the corner, now is the time for the DOE to come up with a workable solution.”

"Any 5-year-old could tell you that it's a problem when you have 28 kids in a kindergarten class, and students taking lunch at 10:30 in the morning," said Council Member Dan Garodnick.  "Overcrowding has reached a crisis point at PS 116 and across the East Side because of a lack of proper planning."

Background:

On Monday, July 14, 2008, Maloney and Comptroller Bill Thompson organized a meeting between officials and the Department of Education to discuss school overcrowding throughout District 2.  Assemblyman Kavanagh asked for the plans regarding P.S. 116.  The Department of Education specifically declined to respond, raising concerns that plans would not be in place in time to address the problem.

With the rise of developments in Manhattan, thousands of families have moved into the borough causing a strain on elementary and middle schools. According to Borough President Stringer’s recent report, "Crowded Out: School Construction Fails to Keep Up with Manhattan Building Boom," Manhattan’s elementary and middle schools are a total of 3,900 students over capacity.

According to the Grier Partnership 2005 report conducted for the NYC School Construction Authority, District 2, which includes P.S. 116, is experiencing the greatest increase in elementary and middle school enrollment in the city. The report states that District 2 is expected to gain enrollment of 9.1% during the years 2004-2009 and 24.7% between 2004-2014.  (See https://source.nycsca.org/pdf/EnrollmentProjections2005-2014.pdf for a copy of this report.) 

More than two-thirds of the elementary schools in District 2 operate over capacity with several schools operating at or exceeding 150% 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.

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, which amounts to a mere $151.14 million.  All of this funding is being directed to District 2.

SCHOOL OVERCROWDING AT P.S. 116:

FACTS:

*P.S. 116 is currently operating at 113% of capacity.

*Enrollment at P.S. 116 increased by 60 students in the 2007-2008 year. The kindergarten classes increased by 28% in this past year.

*For the 2008-2009 year, P.S. 116 was forced to close its PreK program in order to add an additional kindergarten class.

*P.S. 116 will have 7 kindergarten classes this year-- many with approximately 25-28 students in each class.

*The Department of Education plans to eliminate the Gifted and Talented (G & T) kindergarten class at P.S. 116 in 2009.

*Because of the overcrowding, students at P.S. 116 have three lunch periods beginning at 10:20 a.m. and ending at 1:00 p.m.

*There are currently 40 new housing developments being built in the P.S. 116 catchment zone. All of the estimated 3,377 residential units are zoned for P.S. 116 (please see attached).

*It is anticipated that the new housing developments will yield at least 337 elementary school students.

*The Department of Education currently has no plan to build a new school in this neighborhood except for the 630-seat school as part of the East River Realty Company development projected estimated for 2012. However, this school will only accommodate the anticipated 500 elementary and middle school children as a result of the development.

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