GOWANUS — It was once known for factories pumping out asbestos tiles and cement, but now Gowanus can say it creates very young scholars.
The industrial neighborhood welcomed its first standalone pre-K center this fall with the opening of the Little Brooklyn Pre-K Center at 305-307 Third Ave. near Carroll Street. The new pre-K center adds 54 full-day seats on top of existing seats in neighborhood schools, bringing the total number of pre-K slots in Gowanus to 206, according to Department of Education records.
Demand for school seats in the fast-changing neighborhood is rising fast.
A 430-unit apartment building opened earlier this year at 365 Bond St. and an additional 270 apartments are under construction next door at 363 Bond. The city recently targeted Gowanus for a possible rezoning that could usher in more residential development, and there are now plans for nearly 1,000 new apartments or condos along Fourth Avenue, the dividing line between Gowanus and Park Slope.
Details on how the Department of Education will respond to the new residents are still coming into focus.
The DOE's latest capital plan includes funding for 3,840 new seats in Brooklyn's District 15, which includes Gowanus, Park Slope, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Windsor Terrace and Kensington, a DOE spokeswoman said in an email.
The city has set aside funding for eight new sites in District 15: five small pre-K through fifth grade primary schools and three larger schools that could be either primary or middle schools, according to the DOE's capital plan.
At least two of those sites will serve Gowanus.
One is a proposed new pre-K facility at 201 Ninth St. between Third and Fourth avenues. DOE officials announced the 180-seat building last year, and some locals criticized the location choice because it could be a Revolutionary War burial ground. The DOE did not respond to a request this week for an update on the site.
Also in the works is a 436-seat expansion of P.S. 32 at 317 Hoyt St. that's slated to open in 2019.
Elsewhere in District 15, plans are underway for a new 300-seat elementary school in crowded Sunset Park at 4302 Fourth Ave. at 43rd Street.
A Department of Education spokeswoman did not respond to a question about how specifically DOE would address a residential rezoning in Gowanus, but said the agency continues to "work closely" with Community Education Councils, families, elected officials and community members to identify sites to alleviate overcrowding across the city.