Last night there was a meeting of CEDC 30(Community Education District Council 30 in Queens) and as promised here is my second hand summary, and more importantly, my interpretation and thoughts on all this. There were about 15 attendees and the Board of Education did not send anyone. The meeting was attended by members of CEDC 30, and Community Board 2 including its Chairman Joseph Conley, and lasted about 90 minutes. After listening to the highlights of the meetings, I came away more confused than before as to the specific roles and interplay between CEDC 30, CB2, and the Board of Ed, and who has the authority to do what. In fairness to everyone there at the meeting and on these committees , well certainly the first two, they are subject to a Kafkaesque decision process, and from everything I heard are very committed advocates to doing the right thing. With that as a back drop, I am going to give you my own summary of where things stand on the public schools in LIC today, by providing you with three things:
1) Some actual numbers and analysis
2) A solution
3) A thought as to how to get the solution acted upon
OK, thinking caps on, here we go:
Numbers and Analysis
PS404 is the name of the new middle school and high school being completed at Hunters Point South. The issue these advocacy groups have with this school centers basically on whether it should be open to the whole city thru testing, a la Stuyvesant, or just to the community, with a preference for the latter. This a legitimate cause for residents of LIC, but pales in comparison to the elementary school problem. Here is why:
There are approximately 15 kids in each of the 4th and 5th grade classes at PS78, there are going to be over 100 seats per grade in the new 6th-12th grade. Despite the thousands of apartments being built in LIC, the reality is nobody is moving here right now in order to send their kids to middle and high school. So the issue is not as pressing as the elementary school famine about to occur. However, if this does become a city wide school, our community, including any CEDC members, would not have any voice in school matters. So if you were a family that wanted to stay in the community, this will matter for you.
Moving on to pre-school, formerly known as nursery school back when your parents had to pay for it: there are 30 seats currently in PS78, there are multiple other private options within walking distance: Lolly’s, Little Ones, Montessori to name a few.
That leaves elementary school. The only definite information is that the principal(Louis Pavone) and staff of PS78, which is currently in the CityLights building, are moving into the new elementary school which is to be called PS312. What happens to the CityLights space is to-be-determined and we will get to that in our “Solutions” section. Before I get to the numbers, it is important to keep in mind that this exercise will be more like algebra than addition and subtraction: though some data did come out of last nights meeting, many numbers need to be “backed into” a.k.a. assumed. That is where my analysis comes in. I welcome any and all critiques of it, but unless I hear differently from readers, or the powers that be, whom I have contacted and told to read this missive, you should take these numbers as gospel, as they are the only definitive ones currently available to concerned parents:
Ps312 will have 2 classes of 25 students each per grade, just like PS78 did = 50 open slots for kindergarten in 2013 and beyond
*One important thing to keep in mind regarding this 50-figure is that it is a gross number, kindergarteners with siblings already in PS78 get preference. So the real # of “openings” is reduced by, you pick it, 5, 10, 20 slots? But for conservatism and simplicity, we are going to stick w/ 50.
The number of applicants for 2012 have yet to be released. Therefore, I am going to use an assumption that I heard on the playground in the spring, that there were 75 applicants. Thus, in 2012, only 2/3 of the applicants got in to kindergarten.
Now let us fast forward to the entering class of 2013. TF Cornerstone is building 2500 new apartments on Center Boulevard alone. I am going to assume that 25% of these apartments are going to have a child born between 2008 and 2012, I think 25% is a very conservative number. Thus 25% of 2500 = 625 new children entering elementary school over the next five years, or an average of 125 ADDITIONAL students per class, which when added to the current 75 applicant run rate and divided by the 50 slots means((75 original + 125 add’l)/50 slots):
AS THINGS CURRENTLY STAND, YOUR CHILD HAS A ONE IN FOUR CHANCE OF GETTING INTO KINDERGARTEN AT THE NEW SCHOOL!
But wait, there’s more! (We are not going to include this in our tally, I mean how much angst should a parent endure this late in August?) In addition to the 2500 TF Cornerstone apartments, there are numerous other condo buildings being filled up as sponsors are finally unloading empty apartments they have been carrying since the financial crisis(The View, L-haus, Murano, to name a few), plus others started in the last few years that are selling quickly(Murray Park, Industry). Also there are new rentals and condos in various phases of completion(think the 700 unit Rockrose rental buildng that just topped off amongst numerous others). Thus, at four to one, I’d bet against your own kid, and I haven’t even made mention of the 5000 apartment Hunters Point South Project expected to complete it’s first residential phase in 2014!
Tell me where I am wrong? I would greatly welcome holes poked in these numbers!
Yet just when it is darkest, we start talking about a…
Right now, the most expedient solution, and it is being bandied about for whatever “bandying” is worth, is to utilize the current PS78 space either as a second elementary school, or as an early learning center. With nothing tangible being proffered, my recommendation, in light of the numbers I have presented(and those that I didn’t factor in) is to deal with the imminent flood first, and turn it into a school providing the community with additional seats in grades Kindergarten thru 2nd grade. Why? If my numbers are truly gospel, then we need 150 additional seats at a minimum, exactly one year from now. PS78 has capacity for 300 students, divide this by 3 grades and you get 100 extra seats, changing the chances of your child attending public school locally from 25% to 75%! As things stand now there is talk of a “Learning Center” encompassing Pre-K to second grade, but as mentioned, there are already enough seats locally, one way or another, to deal with Pre-K. There is also talk about turning PS78 into a second K-5 elementary school, or even a K-5 charter school. Unfortunately this does not solve the pig- in-a-python problem we will have for the next few years. Remember, if my assumptions do come to pass, they can always build a new school to accommodate grades 3 thru 5 in the next three years. Furthermore, with the lack of three bedrooms in the neighborhood, we might see some considerable tailing off in the latter grades as parents decide to move as their families get larger. Either way, we’ll have time to assess some actual numbers created by all the new apartments.
Action and Implementation
How about that for a simple solution? Well here it is in writing, now get out there and spread the gospel! But wait, once again, there is more. Despite all the efforts of CEDC 30 and Community Board 2, there is only so much they can do, because let’s face it, there is an enormous amount of red tape to get through. Unfortunately, time is of the essence: a final decision must be made and a whole school must be organized and fully staffed in less than a year! We need a heavyweight, who with one phone call to the right man(“Hello Mike, are we still on for Augusta next week? Terrific, there’s just one little thing I’d like to talk to you about before…”) can make it happen under such a tight deadline.
Currently, TF Cornerstone is long almost 3000 rental apartments on Center Boulevard. Two months ago that area was described as “Nirvana on the Water” by The Daily News in a huge spread on the cover of their real estate section. Despite the gushing article, for all intensive purposes The Daily News understated the experience of living in Long Island City -that is solely my opinion. Yet monikers can quickly change, and important information, such as school availability, is easily disseminated through the grapevine. Thus, today’s “Nirvana” can turn into tomorrow’s “neighborhood with an acute school shortage problem”, especially when it is as high profile as Long Island City is today. Now I may not work at JP Morgan, but that is a bet I might want to take a little care in hedging, especially since I think the correlation, Availability of Good Public Schools:High Rent Rolls:Building Valuations, is very high, and the solution is relatively easy.