Brooklyn is really hot right now, sez the prez.
President Obama staged a whirlwind visit on Friday, flying into Prospect Park in a helicopter, speaking at a Crown Heights high school, and stopping by Junior’s Restaurant for cheesecake. And in the middle of it all, the former Park Slope resident and current commander-in-chief echoed what Borough President Markowitz has been crowing for years, saying that the borough is hipper now than ever before.
“When I lived in Brooklyn, it was cool, but it wasn’t this cool,” Obama told the crowd gathered at Pathways for Technology Early College.
The nation’s commander-in-chief called Second Street home for a spell after graduating from Columbia University in 1984 and, speaking on Friday, he pointed to the centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards project as proof of our improved stature as a hip capital.
“The Barclays Center hadn’t been built yet,” he said.
Obama’s apartment was a half a block from Prospect Park, so it must have been satisfying for him to return in a helicopter that, as this paper predicted, touched down in the middle of the park’s ball fields. From there, he rode over to Pathways, a public high school operated in partnership with the City University of New York and IBM.
His visit to Pathways inadvertently put the spotlight on a controversy over Mayor Bloomberg’s policy of shoehorning new schools into existing ones, which has been raging in the waning days of his mayorship as his Department of Education moves to finalize a slew of new so-called co-locations, often over the opposition of parents and teachers.
Addressing a crowd of students, teachers, and reporters, President Obama praised Pathways for offering a six-year, technology-focused program that allows students to earn associate’s degrees in computer science and engineering. Mayor Bloomberg, who was in attendance with Democratic mayoral nominee Bill DeBlasio, praised the president’s educational policies and Obama called on Congress to pass a universal prekindergarten law, drawing enthusiastic nods from DeBlasio, who has proposed such a set-up for New York. Unmentioned was the fact that when Pathways opened in 2011 in the Paul Robeson High School building, Paul Robeson began to close.
The doomed school opened in 1989 with a structure similar to Pathways’, operating in partnership with Bloomberg’s first Wall Street employer Salomon Brothers, which provided students one-on-one mentorships with financial services workers, internship opportunities, and college test preparation. In 1992, Fortune Magazine called the school’s early results “encouraging.” But by 2005, the school was reportedly overcrowded as a direct result of Bloomberg’s shift to opening new, smaller schools and, two years ago, it found itself among the latest on the closure list.
DeBlasio opposed the shuttering in his role as public advocate and has called for a moratorium on so-called co-locations as part of his mayoral campaign. It is unclear if it came up when he accompanied the president to Junior’s for some sweets.
Paul Robeson is still in the process of being phased out and houses a handful of students and teachers who have access to an ever-decreasing share of the facility, but the high school’s replacement has not been around long enough to have its performance fully measured.
Pathways Principal Rashid Davis acknowledged that fact at the ceremony but said that Obama’s visit was proof enough his staff is doing things right. At the moment, though, Pathways is under-performing in at least one subject, scoring in the bottom 25 percent on English tests when compared to similar schools.