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New school construction estimates rise slightly after dropping

Under Albany’s new budget agreement, New York City’s school capital plan will regain roughly 12,000 seats — a boon to school officials who expected harsher cuts, but a number that does not meet earlier demand estimates.

In November of last year, city officials estimated that they would need to increase earlier seat construction projections in the face of overcrowding in schools. At the time, they planned for 50,074 new seats to be built by 2014, many of them in elementary and middle schools where demand had ballooned.

Then came a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to cap state spending on school construction aid. The plan would have significantly reduced the state’s contribution. To absorb the cut, city officials said they wouldn’t be able to build thousands of the seats they had planned on — a decision that would have affected schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Riverdale, Bronx, the most.

But now that Cuomo’s proposal has not been included in the budget agreement, the numbers have changed again. With $1.7 billion more to spend on school construction, the city can now afford to build about 26,500 seats, instead of the roughly 14,000 it had planned on.

City officials said that more information about which neighborhoods would benefit from the seat construction increase, and which would not feel any effect, would be released tomorrow.


Meeting with Assembly and Senate Education Committees in Albany, Chancellor-Designee Walcott Says Swift Action by Legislature Helps City Restore Nearly 12,000 School Seats for Construction

Chancellor-Designee Dennis M. Walcott today announced a new proposed amendment to the Department of Education’s Five-Year Capital Plan, which restores 11,979 school seats for construction and $1.75 billion in total funding for the plan. The amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 – 2014 Five-Year Capital Plan now proposes funding for 28,866 new school seats citywide and a total investment of $11.1 billion over five years. The Chancellor-Designee was in Albany to meet with the State’s Assembly and Senate Education Committees.

“For months now, we have faced the prospect of big cuts in aid from Albany that would have meant fewer new school seats and more overcrowding,” said Chancellor-Designee Walcott. “Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Legislature has come through for New York City, putting us back on track to add over 28,000 seats in neighborhoods with the most need. We’re also investing in critical technology and infrastructure for our schools and moving forward with a plan to improve energy use and environmental quality of our buildings. I’d like to thank the Legislature, and particularly Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan and Senate Education Chair John Flanagan, for their leadership in protecting State support for school construction.”

The new April amendment to the capital plan restores funding by $1.75 billion, bringing the total to $11.1 billion over five years. The portion of that total dedicated to capacity is now $4.6 billion, a $1.7 billion restoration, which funds a total of 28,866 seats for construction or design. The new amendment also brings capital investment to $6.5 billion in order to fund critical upgrades to school infrastructure, including an additional $141 million for the City’s comprehensive plan to increase energy efficiency and environmental quality in public schools.

In February, the Department proposed an amendment to the capital plan based on the Governor’s original proposed cap on building aid, which would have cut the State’s commitment to the City by 48% and forced the delay of 17,000 new seats. The Governor’s proposal was not included in the State’s adopted budget. With State funding restored, the Department is now able to fund 26,552 seats for construction and an additional 2,314 seats for design. The 26,552 seats fully funded for design and construction is a nearly 12,000 seat increase over the February amendment.

The new April amendment will be reviewed and voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy. It will then be forwarded to the City Council for review and approval as part of the City’s annual budget adoption process.

The School Construction Authority manages new school construction and renovation of the City’s existing school buildings for the Department of Education. Over the last seven years, the City has improved construction efficiency and implemented a comprehensive capital planning process that ensures school construction keeps pace with student demand. Through these efforts, more than 100,000 school seats have been constructed since 2003, including 24,995 in the Bronx, 24,463 in Brooklyn, 12,987 in Manhattan, 32,524 in Queens, and 5,619 in Staten Island.

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