LONG ISLAND CITY — Competition for pre-k seats remains fierce in Hunters Point.
As the city sent out its pre-k offers this week, neighborhood group the Gantry Parent Association says they've already heard from dozens of parents whose children they say are waitlisted at two of the neighborhood's three programs.
Jen Theien, the group's president, said they've counted more than 60 local kids who didn't get a spot at either P.S./I.S. 78, the neighborhood's only elementary school, or at the Pre-K Center based at its nearby middle school building at 48-09 Center Blvd.
The number of pre-k seats in Long Island City overall has more than quadrupled in recent years — from 261 in 2013 to 1,156 this year, according to the Department of Education.
But in Hunters Point, P.S./I.S. 78 and the Pre-K Center have space for just 36 kids each, according to the DOE's directory.
Many children were waitlisted at both programs, Theien said, with several offered a seat at P.S. 76, located on the Astoria and Long Island City border, or at P.S. 111 in Dutch Kills — both of which are considered too far from home by many Hunters Point families.
"We've been trying to gather as much information as we can from parents around the neighborhood about who's gotten in, who hasn't gotten in," said Theien, whose own daughter was waitlisted at both sites. "What do we tell these parents?"
The DOE opened additional seats in Hunters Point on Monday at Lolly's Early Childhood Center, at 5-44 47 Ave., as part of its second round of admissions — though that site has just 17 spots available.
"Parents are saying, 'What do we do? We're scared. We just moved to the neighborhood, do we need to move away?'" Theien said.
The lack of school seats has long been an issue in growing Hunters Point, where P.S./I.S. 78 is the only public elementary school. The school had a kindergarten waitlist for four years straight until this spring, when the DOE added an extra class there.
Though city officials have announced funding to build three new schools in Long Island City, it will likely be years before they actually open, leaving current parents in a lurch.
"Everybody's worked so hard," Theien said. "Short-term is what we really need right now."
Gantry Parent Association launched a petition Wednesday asking the city to open more school seats immediately, calling the shortage a "calamity." It garnered nearly 400 signatures in less than a day.
The DOE would not confirm waitlist numbers in the neighborhood, but said that its working to expand local pre-k options, according spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
"Our pre-k outreach team will support any families exploring their pre-K options to find the best fit for their child," she said.
Officials said that citywide this year, a record 85 percent of families received an offer to one of their top three pre-k choices. In District 30, where Hunters Point is located, 81 percent got into one of their top picks, according to the DOE.
Families have until May 20 to register for a pre-k program they've been offered, and can also apply to a round 2 program, which would not affect their existing offers or waitlist status, according to the DOE. More information on the application process can be found here.