City Data Shows More Empty School Buildings Today Than in De Blasio’s Previous Years
admin – October 28, 2019
**FOR RELEASE OCTOBER 28, 2019**
Liz Baker, 646-902-4200
Ann Powell, 646-894-6407
CITY’S LATEST SCHOOL BUILDING UTILIZATION REPORT SHOWS EMPTY SEATS AT ALL-TIME HIGH FOR DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION
There Are 111,501 Empty Seats Across 218 School Buildings, an Increase of 18% From Three Years Ago
New York, NY — The number of school buildings with 300 or more empty seats has steadily increased since Mayor de Blasio took office, according to the most recent Enrollment, Capacity & Utilization Report for 2018-19, or “Blue Book,” which the School Construction Authority quietly released last month. An analysis of the report showed a total of 111,501 seats across 218 buildings — an increase of 17,345 seats, or 18%, compared to three years ago.
Significantly, the number of buildings with at least 1,000 available seats is now nearly double what it was when Mayor de Blasio took office in 2014. At the same time, the mayor has sharply reduced co-location approvals for charter schools, approving just one-third as many as former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The release of this report — with more available seats than at any other time during Mayor de Blasio’s term — underscores the mayor’s appalling refusal to provide a permanent middle school for our Queens families,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. “How can the mayor, who claims to support equity and excellence, deny high-achieving minority students space to continue their education?”
The city’s own data show that there are six underutilized buildings within reasonable proximity to the four Success elementary schools whose fourth graders will be without a school next year. The de Blasio administration committed to providing Success Academy with a middle school two years ago, but the mayor has yet to deliver on his promise and lately has publicly hinted that Success must find a space of its own. Success Academy would not be able to identify, negotiate, and renovate space in the 10-month period before the 2020-21 school year begins.
Below is a summary of the city’s underutilized buildings by year:
Data for all 1,260 buildings can be found here.
Of special note, Building K025 in Brooklyn’s District 16 had a 7% utilization rate in 2018-19. That year the 1,200-seat building housed one school, P.S. 25, which had an enrollment of 82 students; the Department of Education blocked Success Academy from using the building in 2018-19, despite the abundance of space. Success Academy had previously been approved to co-locate an elementary school in K025, which it closed for the sole purpose of using the space for a middle school when the DOE refused to provide additional space. The most recent spending data shows that with 123 students two years prior, P.S. 25 in this site spent $45,574 per general education student overall (vs. $19,461 citywide average) and $5,740 per student on energy, maintenance, and custodial services (vs. $1,558 citywide).
By refusing to make underutilized space available, the de Blasio administration forces charter schools into private space at a significant expense to taxpayers. As noted in a Manhattan Institute report on underutilized school buildings, New York City “pays nearly $52 million per year for charters to access private space, and that cost could easily double over the next few years if the city continues to reject a high percentage of charter colocation requests.” Another report released by the Citizens Budget Commission estimated that school construction expenses are now approaching $122,000 per seat, and that the city could save $2.4 billion in new construction costs while also reducing overcrowding by wisely using existing space.
Other public buildings that the de Blasio administration has allowed to be egregiously underused are highlighted below:
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 45 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 18,000 students, primarily children of color from low-income households in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are students of color, 16% have disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for about 4,000 open seats for the 2019-20 academic year.
For more information about Success Academy, go to successacademies.org.