9. Address school shortages through public commitments, creative solutions, and private requirements
Guaranteeing Infrastructure Investments > Recommendations
Build new school and pre-K seats
As described above, the School Construction Authority has already identified the need for 4,000 new school seats in District 15, 640 of them in the Gowanus/Carroll Gardens area, and 1,096 in Park Slope, with funding provided in the plan for more than half of these seats.
Any rezoning to allow additional residential development would create additional school seat needs. These needs must be fully analyzed as any plans move forward. In addition to grade school seats, there is also a need to identify new space to accommodate the growth in public universal pre-kindergarten. New school seat demand created by allowing future residential development must be clearly identified, with funding provided through amendments to the SCA’s Five Year Capital Plan, and concrete plans for siting those seats.
New school seats can be provided by expanding existing school buildings (e.g. through constructing a building in place of the trailers at PS 32), siting and constructing new school buildings, and including pre-K classrooms in new development.
Enable schools to function as community hubs
At the same time that Gowanus and the surrounding neighborhoods are facing a need for additional school seats, affordable space for community-oriented programs is also in short supply. New school facilities must be built to accommodate the neighborhood’s current (and future) population of school children, and this need presents an opportunity to simultaneously provide public spaces that are accessible for arts, cultural or community activities.
The concept of a flexible or “super” school space that could accommodate other users from the community during evenings, weekends, and summers should be explored. The NYC Department of Education has a long history of such schools, through its “Beacon Schools” program, and is expanding on this idea through its new “Community Schools” initiative. Local residents and workers could use classroom and non-classroom spaces like the auditorium, gym, and library for a wide range of uses including adult education, art and cultural performances, athletics, meeting space for community groups, and more.
Build school partnerships with Gowanus nonprofit, arts, and business organizations
Gowanus includes a vibrant community of nonprofit, arts, environmental, and business organizations (e.g. Groundswell Community Mural Project, ReelWorks, Textile Arts Center, Curious Jane, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Fifth Avenue Committee/Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation, South Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, and Curious Jane, just to cite a few). Partnerships between these organizations and schools in Gowanus could offer a vibrant array of educational, arts, cultural, and employment opportunities for Gowanus students and families.