New Report Reveals Thousands of School Seats Lost in NYC Over the Last Decade Leading to Worse Overcrowding

For immediate release:

September 21, 2017

For more information contact: Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329


Today, Class Size Matters released a new report entitled Seats Gained and Lost in NYC Schools: The Untold Story.  For the first time, this study reveals that more than 50,000 NYC public school seats were eliminated during the decade of 2004 to 2013.

These seat losses, mostly because of lapsed building leases, the removal of trailers and elimination of annexes, were identified using data from the annual NYC Department of Education’s School Capacity and Utilization Reports, known more familiarly as the Blue Books.

Rather than creating net 100,000 seats during this period, as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed, the real figure of net seats was less than half that number — only about 45, 000, when seat loss is taken into account.  Moreover, of the net 45,000 new seats, the vast majority were filled by charter school students in public school buildings, with only 2,357 net seats filled by district public school students during that time.

These findings help explain the increasing overcrowding that has plagued New York City schools, especially in the elementary grades, with the number of overcrowded elementary school buildings increasing by 17 percent and the number of students in these buildings increasing by 29 percent between 2004 and 2012.  In fully half of all districts, elementary school buildings lost net capacity during this period.  Of the 19 districts that experience growth in elementary school enrollment, in only three districts did the net new capacity exceed growth: in districts 2, 11, and 22.

The report details in which districts the loss of seats has been greatest, and points out several factors that may make seat loss an even more important concern in the future.  This includes the DOE’s plan to accelerate the planned removal of TCUS or trailers, and the fact that there are no funds allocated in the five-year capital plan towards replacing their classrooms.  Moreover, the amount of funding in the capital plan dedicated to replacing lost leases has sharply declined since 2009.

The report makes several recommendations to improve the transparency and efficacy of school planning, including that the DOE should include seat loss in its annual reporting,  and publicly release transparent estimates of the need for new seats that take into account lost seats, make explicit their methodology and provide the sources of their data.  The DOE should also take aggressive action to avoid further seat loss in the future and halt the co-location of new schools in existing buildings, which tends to reduce capacity by converting classroom space into administrative and cluster rooms.

“To combat overcrowding in our public schools, the NYC Department of Education must first be open and honest about seat loss,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst).  “Charter school co-locations have taken a tremendous toll on public education in our city, leading to fewer classroom seats in already-overcrowded schools.   While I have successfully fought to create new seats during my tenure in the NYC Council, much more work needs to be done.  I urge the administration to take the necessary steps to reduce class size in NYC.  Our children deserve no less.”

“Only with a fully transparent account of seat loss can DOE honestly confront and aggressively reduce school overcrowding, which has contributed to excessive class sizes and limited access to gyms, art rooms and intervention spaces.  Overcrowding is a chronic condition that has worsened in recent years, especially in elementary grades where the need to keep class sizes as small as possible is paramount.  This crisis threatens to worsen given the boom in residential construction which will accelerate enrollment growth, unless there are significant reforms to the school siting and planning process,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

A copy of the report can be found here and below:


Categories Press Releases, Uncategorized, Updates | Tags: | Posted on September 21, 2017

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