School Crowding A Concern?
A New York Magazine article recently highlighted the issue of surging enrollment in the best rated public schools in New York City and the potential problems this could create. It seems that luxury condo developers are attracted to areas with the best public schools, which they hope will entice buyers. This seems pretty intuitive, as does the result that surging vertical construction in these nabes is now resulting in a big rise in munchkin population and demand for seats in schools. The suspicion is that government authorities who have approved all this new development, may not have fully accounted for this surge in demand in their plans for new school capacity.....was someone cutting math class? The article cites several top rated schools that are reportedly busting at the seams and asserts that DOE has plans to build 105 schools and expand others (in addition to a recently funded five year plan to reduce class sizes) . However, it also quotes a non-profit activist group which claims that the 63,000 new seats planned are too little by half. Now before we go blaming the current New York City administration, it is apparent from the reading I have done that the City's school system has been chronically under-facilitized for over a decade. Also let me remind you that many of the new condo developments are being built "as of right", meaning that the areas they are in are zoned for this kind of density and they have not had to get any special permission to build, aside from having plans approved. I doubt whether the guys who approve the building plans talk to the Department of Education to warn them about new kiddies likely to move into a neighborhood. However, there have been several zoning changes around town, whose review process should have anticipated these issues and certainly any zoning variances granted could and would force developers to build schools or pay impact fees to help offset the needs for expanded education. In the meanwhile, the City is threatening to close many existing schools that are receiving failing grades for quality; my guess is that these are in less affluent neighborhoods.
Lest anyone think that the imbalances developing between have and have not neighborhoods and schools doesn't matter to the real estate market in NYC, a recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece comments on the importance of married people with children to urban growth. The article opines that the focus by cities on attracting YUSPIEs (Young Urban Single Professionals) has been misplaced. It claims that the strongest job growth has occurred in areas that attract yound educated families. This information may or may not be correct; however, it is hard to argue the correlation (which does not equate to causality) of real estate values increasing in the last few years and the boom in families living in NYC. According to the New York Times, since 2000, the number of children under age 5 living in Manhattan has balooned by 32%. Much of this growth was reportedly driven by non-hispanic whites whose median income was $284,208 in 2005. Over the same period the median home value for all owner-occupied housing has risen 86% from $423,000 to $787,000 since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I don't need to point out the danger that if job growth, development and housing prices were to decline in Manhattan, the City's coffers might not be as full and the ability to invest in the new classroom seats necessary might become an issue. Thankfully, the City's demographers do not see the young urban family growth trend continuing. According to a December 13, 2006 press release regarding City demographers population projections through 2030, "The school-age population, which numbered 1.40 million in 2000, is projected to increase to 1.43 million in 2005. This population is then projected to decline, reaching a low of 1.36 million in 2020. These declines are the result of recent declines in childbirth rates, net migration losses, and the smaller cohorts of women of childbearing age." Now these are city-wide projections, not Manhattan projections, and as we have all learned before, the averages don't tell the whole story. My suspicion is that neighborhood by neighborhood there may be some problems if poorer neighborhoods have fewer children to educate going forward and richer neighborhoods have more.
From the Internet & Blogosphere
Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Piece & Comments from AtDetroit.Net
The End of White Flight?
Questions Rising Concerning Spending of Funds by the Mayor and the New York City Schools
Who Got the Raw Deal in Gotham