MIDTOWN MANHATTAN, NY — Elected officials gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of a new universal pre-k center that will add 144 seats to Manhattan's east side.
The eight-classroom facility on Second Avenue and East 57th Street was made possible by a deal struck in 2007 between city and state officials and a private real estate developer, local City Councilman Keith Powers said Tuesday.
The new facility represents a culmination of the efforts of elected officials from the Upper East Side and East Midtown to bring more pre-k seats to the neighborhood in order to meet demand for the program, Powers told Patch. Powers described the universal pre-k program as a "legacy and success of this administration" and cited evidence that access to pre-k improves the well-being and early cognitive skills of city children.
"In the city we have a great promise that we make to parents of four-year-olds, which is that you have the universal pre-k program that you can advantage of. It's the legacy and the success of this administration, it's something that we all care deeply about," Powers said.
The 2007 deal allowed private developers to build a residential tower atop the city-owned school space in exchange for additions to two existing school buildings on East 57th Street and the construction of a new school building in the district.
"We essentially got 1,000 school seats for the neighborhood even before pre-k," Powers, who was an aide of New York State Assemblyman Jonathan Bing when the deal was struck in 2007, said Thursday.
The ribbon-cutting at the East 57th Street was the second on Manhattan's east side in as many weeks. On Sept. 12 officials celebrated the opening of a pre-k center on East 95th Street that added 90 seats to the school district. Also on hand for Tuesday's ribbon cutting were State Senator Liz Kreuger , City Councilman Ben Kallos, State Assemblyman Dan Quart and School Construction Authority Lorraine Grillo.
For the 2017-2018 school year 736 families applied for pre-k seats on the Upper East Side, but the neighborhood only had 550 seats, officials said. Families that didn't match with schools in the neighborhood had to send their four-year-olds to another school in New York's second school district, which spans all the way down to the southern tip of Manhattan.
With the addition of 180 seats coming to East 76th Street in 2019, the neighborhood will offer more than 900 pre-k seats by next school year.