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Hunters Point Kindergarten Wait List Jumps 50 Percent in Growing Nabe

LONG ISLAND CITY — The wait list for kindergarten at P.S. 78, the only and rapidly-growing elementary school in Hunters Point, grew by nearly 50 percent from last year, officials said. 

The jump to 31 students on the list, from 22 the year before, comes despite an expansion into a new school building planned for this fall, and the addition of an extra kindergarten class next year.

P.S. 78 is one of 105 schools across the city with a kindergarten waitlist, according to the DOE, and many others have it worse — P.S. 307 in Corona, for example, has a whopping 167 students waiting for a spot.

But parents in Hunters Point say they're worried the city is falling behind when it comes to creating school seats in the Long Island City neighborhood, where young families have been flocking and where thousands of new apartment units are set to open in the next several years, including the city's massive Hunters Point South development.

"We bought before this area was even looking like it is today," said Jyoti Parekh, who moved to Hunters Point in 2006 and whose son, Saajan, is on the waitlist at P.S. 78.

"It's ridiculous — Bloomberg wants all these buildings to be built, but there's one school to service them."

Additional seats are set to open in the area this fall, according to the DOE, including a new 1,100-seat building in the Hunters Point South development that will house a relocated high school and a new middle school.

P.S. 78 is set to expand as well. The school, which currently runs through fifth grade and is located on the first floor of the CityLights building at 48-09 Center Blvd., will expand into a 542-seat K-8 school and will move some of its classes to a newly constructed building at 46-08 5th St.

Currently, the school has 294 seats.

But parents say even the additional seats are not enough to meet the needs of the growing area. Census data from 2010 listed approximately 11,000 residents in Hunters Point — a radical change from the 6,000 who lived there in 2000.

Jonna Stark, a local real estate broker for Nest Seekers and a Hunters Point resident, got word last week that her 4-year-old daughter was lucky enough to get a kindergarten seat at P.S. 78. She says the school comes up often with house-hunters who are looking to settle down in the neighborhood.

"I'm very honest with clients," she said. "I tell people I think it's a good school, but I do tell them they're aren’t enough seats."

"There's four new buildings going up right on the water," Stark added. "If you think about how many people are on the waitlist right now, just imagine how many more will be on the waitlist next year if the DOE doesn’t do anything about it."

In an e-mailed statement, DOE spokesman Devon Puglia acknowledged that across the city, "the number of families enrolling their children in kindergarten is rising," and said the department has made changes to deal with it.

"We’re working as hard and as quickly as possible to keep up with it, both through re-zonings and constructing as many new buildings as we can. During this Administration alone, we’ve created over 125,000 new seats to serve K-12 students," he said.

"We know this is an anxious time for families. We will ensure that schools maximize offers to zoned students, accommodate waitlisted families as soon as empty seats become available, and add additional kindergarten sections wherever possible."

The DOE has stressed that waitlists will go down in the coming weeks as some families opt instead for private or charter schools, or one of the city's Gifted and Talented Programs. The 22 children who were waitlisted last year at P.S. 78 eventually got a spot at the school, several parents said.

Mom Coco Dorneanu said she's "confident" her waitlisted four-year-old daughter Eavan — who's now in pre-K at P.S. 78 — will eventually get a kindergarten seat, but said it still doesn't make the application process any less traumatic.

"All of her friends were accepted to [P.S.] 78, which is breaking her heart," she said.

Dorneanu said she's concerned about more than just kindergarten waitlists. A real estate broker in Manhattan, she lives near Court Square — were a flurry of new developments are being built — and worries P.S. 78 will be overcrowded in the coming years.

"In the next two, three years, we're going to see another 3,000 [people] move in. Where are these kids going to go?" she asked.