Just a day before public schools in New York City started, educators and elected officials cut a ribbon on a new 180-seat pre-kindergarten center for four-year-olds at 355 East 76th Street on the Upper East Side.
In 2014, WNYC reported that Yorkville, Lenox Hill and Roosevelt Island had 2,118 four-year-olds and only 123 pre-kindergarten seats. Every year since then applications have exceeded the number of pre-kindergarten seats in the neighborhood. For the 2019 school year there were 1,122 pre-kindergarten seats available for four-year-olds in zip codes represented by Council Member Ben Kallos with 1,140 applicants for pre-kindergarten, according to a report he authored to spotlight this problem. Officials broke ground on the new center in May 2018.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Kallos and neighboring Council Member Keith Powers. Representatives from the offices of State Senator Liz Krueger, State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer were present -- officials who have been part of the efforts to increase pre-K seats on the UES. School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo and Director of Early Childhood Education Aneesha Jacko were also at the ceremony. Funding for the new center was originally announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget.
"Every child deserves a world-class education, starting with pre-kindergarten," said Kallos. "On the Upper East Side we’ve increased the number of pre-kindergarten seats sevenfold ... We couldn’t have done this without our parents and fellow elected officials fighting by our side.”