City planners need to go back to the black-board and come up with a plan to build more schools to keep pace with luxury condo development.
That’s the view of at least one economist who says even new schools coming online are classed as overcrowded the day they open.
“Not only has stroller traffic increased, but school enrollment has soared and overcrowding has ensued, particularly in neighborhoods where new development is heavily concentrated,” said Barbara Byrne Denham, chief economist at real estate services firm Eastern Consolidated.
According to Denham, many planners assumed that those moving into luxury housing could afford to send their children to private schools. The truth is that many families, regardless of means, prefer to send their children to public schools, she said.
A new report authored by the economist examines the schools situation in Midtown West, the Upper West Side and Lower Manhattan where new, high-end condominium developments have caused a marked demographic shift.
Using school capacity numbers from the Department of Education, the report shows how many schools are operating beyond capacity and how many more will be in the coming years as more development comes on line.
On the Upper West Side where overcrowding has been an issue for years, the Department of Education has re-configured schools, rezoned boundaries and/or squeezed students into music rooms, and other spare spaces.
The school planned for 2015 when the new development at Riverside South is due to open will probably be overcrowded the day it opens, according to Denham.
In Midtown West, where plans for Hudson Yards include more than 5,000 new housing units, the City has no plans for a new school other than to rebuild the one that was torn down to build Gotham West.
The City has leased a former parochial high school, but has not announced what it plans for this space. The replacement school and the leased school will not be large enough to accommodate the estimated new families moving to the area.
In Lower Manhattan, the School Construction Authority has built more schools, but generally after the existing schools grew beyond capacity. Schools currently under construction will suffice for a few years, only if the pace of new development slows.
Although the report specifically looks into the school situation in each of these three neighborhoods, Denham said it’s probable that this story could apply to other areas of New York City as well.
“Every year, the media reports on a new crop of incoming kindergarten parents worried about whether or not their children will be admitted to their community elementary school,” said Denham.
“This problem is not going to go away until the City properly accounts for its new housing and builds new schools to keep up with the shifting demographics in areas of new residential development.”