City fails math: DOE’s own school-needs formula proves city not planning enough seats for Downtown

Rendering by DBOx Trinity Place Holdings plans to begin construction this year on this 500-foot luxury condominium tower at the site of the former Syms clothing store at 42 Trinity Pl. The lower floors will host a new, 476-seat elementary school when it is completed in 2019.

via DBOX
The Trinity Place building expected to be completed in 2019 will host a 476-seat elementary school that the city first budgeted for in 2013. Since that time, enough new residential development has been announced (including the Trinity Place condos) to project a need for an additional 626 school seats above and beyond what the new school will provide.


Downtown’s school overcrowding task force has forecast an urgent need for 626 additional schools seats south of Canal Street — based on the same algorithms city bureaucrats use — and yet the city has no plans to accommodate the influx.

Despite the obviously impending deficit, the Department of Education has not even begun the agonizingly slow process of citing and building a new school — which can take several years in crowded, pricey Lower Manhattan, according to task force member Eric Greenleaf.

“We face a very real possibility that, if the city waits a few more years to find a school, there literally won’t be any space left,” said Eric Greenleaf.

Greenleaf, who has served as a member of the Lower Manhattan Overcrowding Task Force since 2008, presented his projections for new Downtown students at a task force meeting in February.

His analysis was based on Department of Building’s filings for new residential developments since June 2013 — the last time the city acknowledged the need for more school seats, shortly before allocating funding for the new elementary school at Trinity Place. Since then, developers have announced a whopping 5,216 new apartment units Downtown.

The School Construction Authority, the city agency largely responsible for forecasting future student populations, uses the borough-wide standard of 0.12 students per residential unit — or 12 students for every 100 apartments — according to Greenleaf, who used the same formula to reach his figure of 626 new seats needed.

When Greenleaf announced the number to the task force, SCA representative Mike Mirasola incredulously asked, if his numbers were correct, then “where are the kids?”

Greenleaf pointed out that many of the buildings filed with DOB since 2013 are not yet finished, and for the ones already on the market, it was unrealistic to expect those units to fill up overnight. And regardless, Greenleaf said, the point was to have the school seats built and ready for the incoming students, not scramble to play catch-up when the overcrowding problem gets even worse.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who also attended the meeting, had Greenleaf’s back.

“We saw that extensively in 2008, 2009, and 2010,” Squadron said, “and the same thing was said: ‘Where are the kids?’ And it turned out the kids were in preschool.”

Councilwoman Margaret Chin, also a task force member, plans on using Greenleaf’s numbers to lobby the SCA for additional school seats, including at a agency budget hearing at City Hall on Wednesday.

“Every time I see the SCA, I remind them,” she said.

Like Greenleaf, Chin sees Lower Manhattan’s dwindling stock of open real estate as among the chief problems with the city’s playing waiting games when it comes to placing new schools, and the lawmaker stressed the importance of constantly keeping watch for potential school sites.

“The kids are coming,” she said. “We have to ID sites that can be used for schools.”

The Department of Education did respond to a request for comment by press time.

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