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Ridgites pan plan for pre-K near flophouse

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Won’t somebody think of the children?

The city wants to build a standalone pre-kindergarten on 93rd Street in Bay Ridge, but neighbors say a seedy hotel up the block will put kids at risk.

“First make it safe for the children,” neighbor Stephanie Moustakas said during a Feb. 25 public hearing. “It’s not safe. There are a great lot of insane people, bums, drugs, booze.”

The Prince Hotel has long been a thorn in the side of 93rd Street residents, who say drug addicts and prostitutes patronize the dicey den daily. The site sits less than 500 feet from the potential site for the pre-K building.

The city plans to knock down the one-story office building at 369 93rd St. and put up a three-story standalone pre-K facility with eight classrooms and 144 seats, according to Tami Rachelson, a deputy director at the Schools Construction Authority. The city is in negotiations to buy the lot from Dr. William Spielfogel, who owns the land and runs a podiatry practice in the building, she said. They have agreed upon a price, but Rachelson declined to say what it was. Real estate firm Massey Knakal listed the site with an asking price of $3,100,000.

Spielfogel did not return requests for comment by press time.

Residents were also concerned about increased traffic on the narrow roadway.

“This is more than a tiny and cramped 93rd Street can bear,” said neighbor Jared Milano.

The site will employ at least eight educators, but the city will not build any parking, Rachelson said. No busses will run to and from the site, and the city expects most parents to walk their kids to school, she said.

But not everyone panned the plan. One neighbor said the school might galvanize a neighborhood effort against the Prince Hotel.

“I’m probably the only one here that is 100 percent for this,” said Kerri Catalano, who lives across the street. “I’m think this will bring the neighborhood together. I would absolutely send my daughter there.”

The site might not be ideal, but residents conceded the area needs pre-school seats.

School space is at a premium in District 20, which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and parts of Bensonhurst, Sunset Park, Borough Park, and Kensington.

Fewer than half of the district’s pre-K applicants — just 734 of 1,921 — got a seat in 2014, according to Department of Education records. It was the largest placement disparity in the borough, the data shows.

There just aren’t enough suitable sites in the area for the city to build on, a local school leader said.

“Last year, when mayor rolled out additional pre-K seats, we didn’t get one additional seat, because we didn’t have room,” said District 20 Community Education Council president Laurie Windsor.

The city also plans to lease space at three other sites in the district to create 396 new pre-K seats, Windsor said.

But Milano and his neighbors said the city must be more mindful when siting new early learning facilities.

“Think about the children,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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