Easing of School Crowding Procedures Questioned by New York City Council

Original Media Source: City Limits – photo John McCarten/City Council

More than three years ago, the new PS 77 opened on Webster Avenue in the Norwood section of the Bronx. Two Septembers later and two blocks away, PS 56 began operating again after a two-year hiatus during which it gained a massive new, three-story addition. Together, the projects added more than 1,000 new school seats to district 10. Add to that the Bronx Community Charter School, which moved to a site just across from PS 77 so that it might expand to serve middle-school as well as elementary grades, and it seemed that one of the city’s most crowded school districts was getting the kind of new capacity its parents and pols had long demanded.

But as soon as the construction crews finished the schools, it seemed, they moved down the street to work on one of the many new residential buildings rising in the neighborhood. There’s the apartment building next door to the charter school, the other structure just north of PS77, the multiple new high-rises popping up just a touch south on the corner of 204th Street, and the wall of tall, wide and shallow buildings now sitting on a once forlorn sliver between Woodlawn Cemetery and the Metro-North tracks.

Propelled by a 2011 upzoning of the Webster Avenue corridor, the neighborhood is booming. And once again, the question is whether school capacity will catch up.

That’s a question asked in a lot of neighborhoods, especially those where one of Mayor de Blasio’s neighborhood rezonings aim to add new residential capacity, or others where overcrowding is already a reality. A report released on Tuesday by a City Council working group finds flaws in the way the city plans for how many school seats it needs, how it sites the schools it decides to build, and what it tells the public about how approaches about either task.

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