This is not just one district’s problem. In every neighborhood with a beloved school, classrooms are stuffed—the burden and blessing of a city whose residents no longer bolt for the suburbs when the kids are born. The Manhattan New School (P.S. 290) has reached 155 percent of its capacity as one condo after another rises in Yorkville. Park Slope’s William Penn School (P.S. 321) has seen its kindergarten classes grow by 20 percent. East 33rd Street’s Mary Lindley Murray School (P.S. 116) gained 77 students this year, many from the 32 apartment buildings put up in its catchment these past two years. “When I toured the school [last year], the class size was maybe 20 to 23 kids, totally within the city and union limits,” says one new Murray Hill mom. By the time her child started in September, there were 28 per class, eight more than the state recommends. “This is not what I thought I was getting into.” When the Con Ed site, on the East River from 35th Street to 41st, gets seven new high-rises in a few years, the school will be swamped. “If you don’t build schools, you’re pushing families out,” rails Mary Silver, a mother of two at P.S. 116. “These families have helped stabilize the city … the system is imploding.”
So now what? Elsewhere in the country—in Florida and Georgia, for instance—developers have to pay impact fees when they build houses so new infrastructure can be created to serve the growing public. But no such policy exists here.
District 24 has long been the most overcrowded in the borough, if not the city. No one ever really gave a crap about it, as long as Elmhurst was able to absorb all of the new immigrants. Now that overpopulation is affecting schools in Manhattan, it's suddenly a big deal.