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Park Slope's P.S. 321 to Host Discussion on Gentrification

By Leslie Albrecht | January 29, 2014 9:27am
 Strollers outside P.S. 321 on the first day of school. P.S. 321 is hosting a panel discussion on gentrification on Jan. 30, 2014.
Strollers outside P.S. 321 on the first day of school. P.S. 321 is hosting a panel discussion on gentrification on Jan. 30, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

PARK SLOPE — A neighborhood elementary school is tackling a weighty subject — gentrification.

P.S. 321 is hosting a panel discussion this Thursday where professors from local universities will "weigh in on the causes and consequences of gentrification, and the impacts on groups and communities," according to an announcement from the school.

The session, which is for adults, is hosted by P.S. 321's diversity committee, but it's open to anyone who's interested in attending, even people who don't have kids at the school.

“We’re really excited to have more than just the P.S. 321 community come, so we can have a real dialogue," said Natasha Zaretsky, co-chair of the diversity committee.

The diversity committee put together the panel in response to "parents talking about questions of economic difference and neighborhood changes that are happening pretty rapidly," Zaretsky said.

The panelists are Dr. Zaire Dinzey-Flores, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, Dr. Jerome Krase, professor emeritus at Brooklyn College, and Dr. Emily T. Molina, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College. The speakers will present their research, and then take questions from the audience.

The goal of the evening is to foster awareness of gentrification, and give parents tools for talking about the topic with their kids. The discussion is in line with the mission of P.S. 321's diversity committee, which works to create a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds, Zaretsky said.

The committee hosts workshops for parents on how to talk to kids about difference, as well as events like a screening of the documentary film "That's A Family," which presents varied family structures.

The committee was formed several years ago as P.S. 321 saw its diversity shrinking, Principal Liz Phillips told DNAinfo New York in a 2012 interview. Phillips said she's witnessed the school's racial make-up shift dramatically — it was about one-third white, one-third African-American and one-third Latino when her own children attended the school.

Current enrollment at P.S. 321 is 73 percent white, 7 percent African-American, and 9 percent Latino, according to the DOE. The total student population in schools citywide is 15 percent white, 26 percent African-American and 40 percent Latino. About 2 percent of students at P.S. 321 were eligible for reduced price lunches in the most recently published tally.

"Even in the 10 years I've been living in Park Slope, I've seen it change tremendously," Zaretsky said. "P.S. 321 is a school that draws from the neighborhood…Even if we live in city that's very diverse, the neighborhoods here are changing in very specific ways. These are issues that we feel are very important for our kids to be aware of as they're growing up as human beings in the world."

The P.S. 321 panel discussion on gentrification is on Thursday Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the school's auditorium, 180 Seventh Ave.