QUEENS — Hunters Point parents worry that the two new schools coming to the neighborhood — tripling the number of schools there — won’t be enough to satisfy the needs of a rapidly growing population of families with young children.
Residents voiced their concerns to elected officials, as well as Department of Education and School Construction Authority representatives during a town hall meeting in Long Island City on Wednesday night.
The two new schools — P.S. 312, a 542-seat K-8 school, and I.S./H.S. 404, an intermediate and high school with 1,072 seats — are set to open in September 2013, joining the only school in the neighborhood, P.S. 78.
Despite more than 1,500 new seats, many parents say they are worried it will not be enough to accommodate the booming population.
“I’m skeptical that it’s going to be enough,” said Jonna Stark, a real estate agent in the area and one of nearly 200 residents who crammed into the meeting.
Her 4-year old daughter was not accepted to the P.S. 78’s Pre-K classes, currently the only such program in Hunters Point, which has room for only 36 kids. As a result, she has to walk half an hour with her daughter to another school.
Stark, who is expecting another child, also said that while the changes in the area are very exciting, they also mean that new families moving to the neighborhood will be soon competing for school seats.
“I‘m worried that they [The Department of Education and School Construction Authority] are already behind,” Stark said.
According to the 2010 Census data, there are approximately 11,000 residents in Hunters Point — a radical change from the 6,000 who lived there in 2000.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer also said that several thousand new apartment units are currently being constructed in the area. “We know the need is there, it’s growing every single day,” he said.
Van Bramer, who organized the town hall meeting, said he shared residents' concerns.
“I for one believe we need even more schools. We don’t want to settle for two,” Van Bramer said. “We want to keep pushing for another school here because of the population explosion that we see.”
Developers are not eager to build new schools said Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who also participated in the town hall meeting.
“The city always seems to approve all the buildings and they don’t demand schools to go with it. It doesn’t really make sense,” said Leslie Costa, PTA co-president at P.S. 78. “So we are fighting for our kids to be able to stay in their neighborhood.”
Monica Gutierrez of the New York City School Construction Authority, said it’s not easy to find new locations for schools. She added that her agency also seeks the community’s help “to find empty lots and places that we can purchase or possibly rent for 30 to 60 years or more.”
She reassured parents that P.S. 78 (pre-K through 5), which is housed in one of the neighborhood’s high-rises, will remain open.