Aging sewer systems are failing, public transportation and our roadways are perpetually congested, and, perhaps most importantly, our classrooms are becoming too crowded.
Horror stories of drastic overcrowding abound throughout the city; classes taught in locker rooms and on school stages, high school stairwells so crowded they present a fire hazard.
At a meeting on overcrowded classrooms at PS 58 in Carroll Gardens last week, one elementary school teacher said her classroom rug wasn’t big enough to allow all the students to sit on the floor.
Indeed, statistics corroborate such anecdotes: the Department of Education (DOE) reports that 44 percent of the city’s total 575 school buildings are overcrowded. And while the average capacity rate is 101 percent citywide, some districts have been hit with far greater capacity difficulties amidst rapid-fire swells in populations.
PS 58, for example, is at 125 percent capacity. A few miles over in DUMBO, schools have reported waitlists of 50 students for a school seat.
It’s easy to vilify the new development as cause for all overcrowding woes, but simply laying blame won’t do any good. We need to be smart about leveraging any community influence we have to create new school seats as the opportunity arises.
While it's true many buildings are as-of-right and don’t require public input, in instances where we do have a say we must demand plans to address infrastructure woes along with plans to add new homes to our neighborhoods.
In Prospect Heights, for instance, the sprawling new Pacific Park development will be erected along with a new 616-seat school. Parents and the local community have been engaged in making the school a reality since the project's inception, instrumental not only in the schools’ creation, but in where and what kind of a school it will be.
In a city like New York, we’re not allowed the luxury of apathy. If we want to stave off a crisis in our classrooms, we have to fight for them.