Bay Ridge residents 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 prekindergarten 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 place 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 School 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.

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 is supposed to employ at least eight educators, but the city will not build any parking, Rachelson said. No buses 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 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 preschool 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 show.

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 or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Bay Ridge says:
A new pre-school is desperately needed. Maybe the children will scare away the losers at the hotel?

I think it would be wise for the hotel to try and go upmarket - that would increase profits and eliminate everyone's problems.
Feb. 27, 2015, 9:08 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
a fine idea
Feb. 27, 2015, 10:48 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
Why depend on the Dept of Education anyway? Bay Ridge has multiple cost effective options for pre-K that don't involve dealing with the Dept of Education, including Our Savior Lutheran, Holy Angels Academy, St. Anselm's Academy, St. Patrick's School, St. Ephrem's and Lief Ericson School.
Feb. 27, 2015, 11:19 am
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
This pre-K is indeed a good idea.
Feb. 27, 2015, 1:34 pm
Bobbi from Bensonhurst says:
I don't understand the headline, it doesn't sound like all that many people are against this, just people concerned about parking. And if the City is serious about this, by the time the pre-K is ready to go you can be sure they will have found a way to get rid of the Prince Hotel!
Feb. 27, 2015, 3:28 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
What difference does it make if the hotel is nearby? It's not like the children will be going there by themselves.
Feb. 27, 2015, 7:44 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Boris - most of those are religious schools, and all have a cost. Public preschools serve different needs.
Personally, as a non-Catholic, I wouldn't send my children to a Catholic school. Also, as a not-really-religous protestant, I don't want to send my children to a Lutheran school either.
March 2, 2015, 9:39 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:

Schools that are not an option for you may be valid options for many others.
March 2, 2015, 12:23 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:

Exactly my point. Those schools are fine, but there are other needs besides them. Hence a publice preschool.
March 4, 2015, 8:58 am
millie ravelo from bay ridge says:
The hotel isnt zoned for use as a hotel if it was sold by the city for its violations and used as apartment rentals by a new owner with background checks it would please the surrounding neighbors and the existing elderly tenants of the prince hotel and it would solve everyones needs everyone wins and keeps any rif raf out
March 23, 2015, 9:03 pm

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