LONG ISLAND CITY — The city is opening extra pre-K classes in Hunters Point this fall, an effort to accommodate some of the dozens of youngsters on waitlists at local programs in the rapidly growing waterfront neighborhood.
The Department of Education says it is adding two classes with a combined total of 40 seats at the Pre-K Center at 48-09 Center Blvd., one of the three pre-K programs in the immediate area.
It's not clear how many children will still be wait-listed at those programs even with the addition of the new seats, and the DOE did not immediately have those figures Friday.
"Those two classes are wonderful, but there are a whole lot of children that still need seats," said Jen Theien, head of the Gantry Parent Association, whose own daughter is number 76 on the center's waitlist.
Theien said she and other parents on the waitlist have been "freaking out" about the possibility of having to commute with their child to a school in another neighborhood, or keep their kid at home for the year in lieu of landing a local spot.
Many of those wait-listed were initially offered seats at P.S. 76 in Astoria or P.S. 111 in Dutch Kills, but both sites pose a difficult commute for parents with toddlers in tow, Theien said.
"I think this is huge progress, but there still needs to be at least two more classes," she said, adding that it's also likely that spots will open as some families opt for private school or other alternatives.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who's been working with the parents group in its push for more local pre-K seats, said in a statement that the 40 new slots are "only the beginning of what we have asked for."
"We have demanded that the remaining children on the waitlist be accommodated and I believe this will happen in the near future," he said.
Seats at the two new classes will be offered to families on the Pre-K Center's existing waitlist, according to the DOE. The agency's pre-k outreach team will continue to assist families this summer, a spokeswoman said.
"We'll continue to work with this community to expand pre-K options and better match pre-K seats and family demand," spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.
Competition for pre-K and kindergarten has been fierce in Hunters Point for the last several years, as development and population growth has outpaced the construction of new schools.
There's currently only one elementary school, P.S./I.S. 78, in the immediate area, though there are plans to open at least one more in the coming years as part of the Hunters Point South affordable housing development.
The DOE is also adding an extra kindergarten class this year at P.S./I.S. 78, marking the first time in years that there's no kindergarten waitlist at the popular school.