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Locals: Vinegar Hill school rezoning is a black and white issue

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The city is rushing headfirst into a plan to ease overcrowding at a mostly white elementary school in Brooklyn Heights by sending more local kids to a largely black school in Vinegar Hill next year without stopping to consider how it will impact the community bearing most of the burden, say residents of the tiny waterfront nabe.

“You’ve got a plan that only considers half of this community, and once again the half that’s not considered is the black half,” said Rev. Mark V. C. Taylor, a pastor at Vinegar Hill’s Church of the Open Door, at a town-hall meeting on the rezoning on Wednesday.

The education department announced at the beginning of the month that it plans to reduce the bloated student body at PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights — which currently has around 200 more kids than it is supposed to — by redrawing local school zone borders to send future students from Dumbo and small parts of Downtown and the Navy Yard to PS 307 — which serves kids from the Farrugut public housing buildings and has room for at least 300 more youngsters.

PS 307 currently takes in around 17 kindergarten kids a year, which will jump to between 115 and 120 under the new zoning, according to department projections. The change will also dramatically alter the school’s demographics — 90 percent of current students are minorities, which will drop to 55–65 percent, per the forecasts.

But the city is only giving residents until the end of the month to offer their opinion to the local community education council before it votes on the scheme, which will come into effect next year. And PS 307 parents say that while they understand PS 8 is feeling squashed right now, they need way more time to examine how the changes will affect their own school — as does the city.

“This process needs to be moved back at least a year,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones, who was speaking on behalf of a PS 307 parent. “Push this process back and consider the needs of the entire Downtown community.”

Residents are also questioning why the department has singled out PS 307 to bear the full load of the rezoning instead of spreading the impact amongst other under-capacity schools in the same district, like Downtown’s PS 287, which has room for around 600 students but only 193 students currently enrolled, according to city data.

“There’s adequate space in District 13 — there’s space in this school, there’s space in 287, there’s space in 67, there’s space in 46,” said Ed Brown, a member of the local community education council. “There’s something else going on here.”

That something, according to locals, is that PS 307 is a successful school, while others in the area are struggling.

Recently retired principal and former Farragut Houses resident Roberta Davenport turned her community’s once-blighted educational institution around after taking over in 2003, despite years of neglect from city, state, and federal officials, said Taylor. Now the city threatens to disrupt all that hard work with what he described as “a P8-centric plan.”

“The new principal will not have the chance to continue to build on Ms. Davenport’s skills and will not have a chance to implement her own vision, it seems to us, if this spurious plan, which seemed to come out of nowhere, goes into effect,” said Taylor.

The education department will host another town-hall meeting on the rezoning at PS 8 on Monday Sept. 21.

PS 8 [37 Hicks St. between Poplar and Middagh streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 834–6740]. Sept. 21 at 6:30 pm.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Don't worry, that largely "black" school won't be so "black" in about 5 years. I wonder why the mayor and city council aren't asking the developers they are selling off land to to build schools in addition to luxury condos?
Sept. 18, 2015, 7:20 am
Hopeful from Vinegar Hill says:
DOE could have done a better job laying the groundwork for this rezoning but it is sad that some Farragut residents feel this way. If DUMBO families make use of PS 307, it will bring a wealth of resources to the school and improve learning outcomes for all students. Sure, the change in the school's demographic will require adjustments. Change is always hard. But in the long term, the rezoning is a win for everyone in DUMBO and Vinegar Hill.
Sept. 18, 2015, 9:42 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Hopeful, I think your comment is right on! Very nice. In my opinion, Mark V.C. Taylor is a junior varsity race hustler.
Sept. 18, 2015, 9:48 am
Ed White says:
"Residents are also questioning why the department has singled out PS 307 to bear the full load of the rezoning instead of spreading the impact amongst other under-capacity schools in the same district...." Might the answer be, that is the school closest to the area being rezoned from PS 8? Fascinating how a certain segment of the community is (trying to) use the capacity crisis to bail out failed schools. Joey, have you met Reverend Mark? Your characterization is insightful.
Sept. 18, 2015, 11:31 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
No offense, but this is the sacrifice many educated families made in the 1970-1980s when almost everyone had to send their children to less performing schools, thus paving the way for schools like 307. It's interesting that everyone wants to buy into NYC, but less want to sacrifice for the greater good. You can thank the developers and city for building high and leaving the middle class dry of schools and infrastructure. They got their money, and your paying. In any event, think of the benefit of diversity and lifting all boats. What, you thought Brooklyn was a rich person's paradise? Wrong. Welcome to Brooklyn.
Sept. 18, 2015, 12:42 pm
HONEY from Pooter says:
It would be unfair to expect these black students to compete with the new whites. They simply couldn't handle it. The academics would crush them. It's racism to expect them to go to school with other races.
Sept. 20, 2015, 4:36 am
Lets go there from Ft Greede, says:
I think that schools all over this area should accept minority students , Park slop and Broolkyn hieghts have been in there own little world ,lets move on and do this ,intergrate those areas now ,they have been holding everybody back to long .
Sept. 29, 2015, 8:28 pm

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