BROOKLYN, NY (November 18th, 2016) – On Friday morning, a group of Sunset Park parents entered a small conference room at 100 Gold Street where the quarterly meeting of the Board of Trustees of the School Construction Authority (SCA) was held. Holding signs in English, Chinese and Spanish, and to the bewildered eyes of trustees, their message was clear, “We need schools in Sunset Park, now!”
For over a year, members of the Make Space for Quality Schools in Sunset Park (MSQSSP) campaign have been demanding that the SCA builds 3,500 new seats in the neighborhood. One obstacle that campaign members have ran into is the lack of transparency in the site selection process. While community members have sent the SCA lists of potential sites, the SCA has not been forthcoming with information about the reasons why some sites has been scratched off the list.
Earlier this month, on November 11th, Voces Ciudadanas, one of the founding organizations of the MSQSSP campaign, filed a request to review SCA records under the New York Freedom of Information Law. The FOIL request will allow community members to better understand the school siting process. “We need to make sure that SCA is accountable to the community. Our FOIL request and our presence at SCA meetings is one way to do that,” said Victoria Quiroz Becerra, director of Voces Ciudadanas.
For parents in Sunset Park, who have experienced school overcrowding for many years, the issue is an urgent one. As one of the parents at the meeting noted, “Overcrowding has been an issue in Sunset Park since I was a kid, so I went to this meeting to let SCA know that there is this urgency in our community and that they need to take action now.” Another parent present at the meeting said, “I hope our kids class size is reduced because right now the class size is too overcrowded. It is not good for our kids.”
After the board meeting, Lorraine Grillo, President and CEO of the SCA spoke to parents and agreed to a meeting and to release information about sites that have been rejected as potential sites for a school.
Javier Salamanca, one of the founders and organizers of the MSQSSP campaign noted after the meeting, “Our action let the SCA know that we are going to follow them wherever they go, that our group is not afraid to travel, is not afraid to speak our minds, that we’ll hold them accountable at every level.”