HUDSON HEIGHTS — Parents should have greater say in school closings and co-locations, according to Public Advocate and mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio.
Speaking at a private event organized by more than 60 neighborhood residents in Hudson Heights joined by his wife Chirlane and actress Cynthia Nixon, De Blasio said the Department of Education needed to stop treating parents as an annoyance.
"If there is an idea around changing your school — opening, closing, co-locating, anything — parents are brought into the discussion early because we're stakeholders," de Blasio said at the event on Friday, April 12.
"I argue that parents know what's good for their children and their input would by definition improve any plan."
Nixon addressed the crowd before De Blasio, telling the crowd that de Blasio understood that "New York City is more than the Upper West Side."
While de Blasio, whose 15-year-old son Dante attends Brooklyn Technical High School, said that he would not rule out closings or co-locations, the approval process should be lengthened and they should only occur when two schools can be matched well.
He argued the DOE should use "everything in the toolkit" to save failing schools.
"The bias should be in favor of the schools we already have," he said.
Washington Heights and Inwood have seen a number of co-locations in recent years. Another is slated to take place in September, when Dos Puentes Elementary moves in with P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte on 183rd Street and Wadsworth Avenue.
Several parents have criticized the co-location, which was announced without approval from the District 6 community education council and approved despite vocal opposition at a public hearing in March.
Victoria Frye, the event's host, said that nearly 80 percent of questions received from residents beforehand were about the school system.
"We want to hear specifics about how he's going to make the DOE more responsive to parents and reform education in a way that doesn't use fear," Frye said before the event.
Education took up the first 54 minutes, after which De Blasio was asked if he would retain NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. De Blasio, who trailed city Council Speaker Christine Quinn in 18 points in a recent mayoral poll, said he wouldn't.
When asked how he would address the sky rocketing commercial rents that are driving small businesses out of Washington Heights and Inwood, De Blasio said that he didn't think that rent regulation was viable "for a variety of legal reasons."
The candidate instead suggested the city stop slapping small businesses with fines and help them apply for loans and credit.
The answer didn't sit well with resident Sara Kotzin.
"What he said makes sense, but it didn't address the big issue, which is simply high rents," Kotzin, who started a petition to get the Mayor to protect small businesses, said.
"There has to be some other answer besides rent regulation, some way to put pressure on landlords to keep the rents down."