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NY1 Exclusive: Exploring Why Trailers Are Still Being Used In City Schoolyards

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More than 20 years ago, the city installed trailers in schoolyards around the city, for students who didn't have seats in overcrowded schools, and they're still being used decades later, even though some have been contaminated with mold. In part two of her exclusive series, NY1's Lindsey Christ explores why students and teachers are being sent there.

There's a trailer park scattered across the five boroughs: hundreds of trailers holding classrooms that were supposed to be temporary but now seem to have become permanent fixtures in many schoolyards.

In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg pledged to get rid of them. He said they'd be gone by last year, but the number of classroom trailers has hardly budged, going from 385 in 2005-06 to 357.

They've been there since the 1990s, and as NY1 told you in part 1 of our report, many of them are all but falling apart, moldy and a potential risk to students' health.

The mayor seemed to forget they're still being used when he testified in Albany this year.

"There are almost no trailers outside of schools," Bloomberg said. "We used to have that outside of many schools."

Catherine Nolan, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, corrected him.

"There are still more kids in trailers in the city of New York than there are in every other school district," Nolan said. "The number of kids in trailers is larger than the next largest school district in this state."

"Yes, there still are some trailers," Bloomberg responded. "We've added 100,000 classroom seats. It isn't enough, and I hope we never catch up because that says more and more parents want to come here. We just can't build a million seats."

The city has been building. They've built 63,000 seats since 2004, with another 32,000 planned by next year.

Officials, though, acknowledge that that's still 20,000 short of what is needed, and according to the Independent Budget Office, 39 percent of school buildings are overcrowded, up from 37 percent a few years before.

So the trailers have remained, and there's no longer any official plan to get rid of them. Meanwhile, the trailers themselves have been overcrowded. In the 2009-10 school, there were more than 9,100 elementary and middle school students assigned to classrooms in trailers, classrooms supposed to hold no more than 8,000.

"It's inexcusable for the Department of Education to allow kids to be in these trailers and not build permanent seating in school buildings," said David Kazansky, the health and safety director for the United Federation of Teachers.

It's now a problem for the next administration, and one that will only get more urgent, as the aging structures have already outlived their expiration dates.

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