By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Just two weeks into her new job, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has already found a solution to the overcrowding problem that has plagued lower Manhattan for years.
"Could we just have some birth control?" Black joked during an otherwise somber meeting of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s school overcrowding task force Thursday afternoon. "It would really help us out a lot."
Black mostly listened during the hour-long meeting as downtown parents and elected officials described the dire shortage of elementary school seats, and the expectation that the problem would only worsen in the future.
Black’s joke about birth control, which drew laughs from the group, came after Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234 parent and New York University business professor, presented data showing that lower Manhattan will need another 1,000 elementary seats by 2015.
Even sooner, parents are predicting kindergarten waitlists at P.S. 234 in TriBeCa this fall, because it is already full to the brim.
"This isn’t a problem that’s long-term or on the horizon," said Kimberly Busi, a parent leader at the Spruce Street School. "These kids are here now."
Black told the group, which included several local principals, that she was hearing similar concerns all over the city, and that prioritizing one need over another was a "Sophie’s choice."
But she acknowledged that the city may not have planned properly for lower Manhattan’s population boom, and said she would look at the enrollment projections Greenleaf had prepared.
"It’s clear your needs are great," Black said. "We will try to do the best we can."