GOWANUS — Plans are underway to build a public pre-K facility for up to 180 students on Ninth Street and Third Avenue, the Department of Education announced.
The School Construction Authority said it plans to open the new pre-K in 2018 to meet growing demand in District 15, a sprawling district that includes Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and parts of Sunset Park.
City Councilman Brad Lander said Monday the new school would be welcome news for families in his fast-growing district.
"This neighborhood is growing both because more and more people want to come to the schools here and because of residential development,” Lander said. “We need to do everything we can to increase school capacity. I’m very excited that the SCA is moving forward with this site."
The SCA started the public comment period on the proposed site Oct. 30 and will take input until Dec. 13, according to an announcement from the SCA. The City Council must approve the site for the project to move forward.
The SCA wants to build the new facility on an empty lot that some believe is a burial spot for the Maryland 400, the storied group of Revolutionary War soldiers who held off British forces while George Washington retreated in the pivotal Battle of Brooklyn.
A local preservationist had even hoped to turn the lot into a public park commemorating the Maryland 400.
Others believe the Maryland 400 could be buried closer to the Gowanus Canal, and some think they're near the Carroll Street Bridge. The DOE did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the site's potential historical significance.
The site is right next door to an American Legion post. On the other side of the empty lot where the pre-K facility is planned, a 10-unit residential development is under construction.
City officials have long eyed the lot as a possible school site, but it was dismissed as too small, Lander said. While it's not big enough for a full elementary school, the lot is suitable for a pre-K building, he said.
The SCA estimates that by 2018, the number of pre-K through fifth grade students in District 15 will swell by 5,237, bringing the estimated total to between 23,344 and 24,366 students district-wide, according to the SCA's announcement about the new pre-K site.
Right now there are 13 elementary schools in the part of District 15 that falls within Brooklyn's Community Board 6, according to the SCA. In 2013-14, those schools served 6,846 students. If those neighborhood schools continue to grow as predicted, the new pre-K facility would "reduce the overutilization of the existing school facilities," the SCA said.
Lander noted that some District 15 families didn't get pre-K seats during the first year of the city's new public pre-K program, though all families who wanted a seat got one this year. The new facility will help serve that need going forward, Lander said.
“This will make sure that we can again offer every 4-year-old a full-day high-quality pre-K spot, and it will mean we can offer it more conveniently for people in Gowanus and Park Slope, and it will also expand our school capacity and address overcrowding, which is a big deal throughout the district,” Lander said.
Recently the DOE moved to address overcrowding by adding more seats to P.S. 32 in Gowanus. In 2013, the new P.S. 118 opened after crowded Park Slope schools were rezoned, and P.S.133 moved to a new building that can hold approximately 900 students.
SCA officials considered four other possible sites for the new pre-K facility.
Sites at 521-39 Fourth Ave. and 560-588 Degraw St. were eliminated because of "environmental concerns," according to the SCA. Another site in an old parochial school at 4002 Ft. Hamilton Parkway would have required extensive renovation that would have been too expensive, according to the SCA.
The SCA also considered a fourth site in a former parochial school at 177 25th St. The DOE leased that site and opened a pre-K center there this past fall for 108 students.
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