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Downtown Baby Boom Sees 12 Percent Increase in Births

By Julie Shapiro | January 11, 2012 4:09pm | Updated on January 11, 2012 5:08pm
Lower Manhattan saw 1,086 births in 2010, new birth data shows.
Lower Manhattan saw 1,086 births in 2010, new birth data shows.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — New construction isn't the only thing booming Downtown.

Lower Manhattan is welcoming more newborns at a rate higher than any neighborhood in the borough, new birth data shows.

Community Board 1, which covers the area south of Canal Street, saw an astounding 1,086 babies born in 2010 — a 12 percent increase over 2009 and more than twice as many babies as were born in 2001, according to new figures released by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"It's much more than anyone expected," said Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234 parent and professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, who has tracked Downtown birth data for the past several years.

"If somebody had told you 10 years ago that in 2010 over 1,000 kids would be born in Community District 1," Greenleaf continued, "nobody would have believed it."

Downtown also now has the highest birth rate — 17.8 births per 1,000 residents — of any neighborhood in Manhattan, well above the borough's average of 12.3 births per 1,000 residents, according to city figures for 2010.

While the new babies are a boon for the neighborhood, Greenleaf and other community leaders worry that there won't be enough school seats by the time the kids reach kindergarten.

Lower Manhattan is getting the new Peck Slip School next fall, but the neighborhood already has enough kindergarteners to nearly fill all the new seats — even without the recent baby boom, Greenleaf said.

"This is a disaster waiting to happen, unless more new schools are funded and sited," Greenleaf said.

Paul Hovitz, chairman of Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee, was also concerned, saying the board would use the new data to push for more schools.

Hovitz added that Downtown won't be seen as such a desirable place to live if dozens of children wind up without kindergarten seats.

"No school seats mean people leave," he added.

Downtown's post-9/11 baby boom is also likely to continue: A recent Downtown Alliance survey found that 40 percent of childless households south of Chambers Street plan to have children in the next three years. 

Julie Menin, chairwoman of CB1, said the city's new birth numbers show that the Department of Education needs to do more long-range planning for new schools.

"We cannot wait to be behind the curve on this birth data," she said. "We have to be ahead of the curve."

City officials have acknowledged the need for more seats but have said that there isn't enough money to build a school in every neighborhood that needs one.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.