Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow the city to build a pre-kindergarten center in a Queens park. NY1 Education Reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Mayor de Blasio had hoped for a construction site by now, transforming a Queens parking lot into one of the city's largest centers for pre-kindergarten.
Instead, across the street, 108 four-year-olds go to school in trailers on the P.S. 28 playground.
Because the schools in Corona are so overcrowded, hundreds of other four-year-olds who live nearby must attend pre-k outside the neighborhood. Due to the distance, many don't go at all.
"Part of the Pre-K for All promise was to make sure every four-year old in the city has access to pre-kindergarten programs," Deputy Mayor Richard Buery said. "In some neighborhoods, we've had to really improvise to make that happen."
As a long-term solution, the city proposed to build a pre-k center for more than 300 four-year-olds.
But the location, a parking lot in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, caused complications.
"If you are going to alienate park land, the only legislature that can do that is the state," Queens State Sen. Jose Peralta said. "So they need to take it up to the state, so it can be approved both by the Assembly and the Senate and then signed into law by the governor."
The de Blasio administration tried to avoid seeking state approval, arguing that the pre-k center would be adjacent to the New York Hall of Science, parkland that the state approved for educational use in the 1960s.
Local elected officials accused City Hall of trying to circumvent state law.
"A lot of the local officials, including the borough president, wanted to make sure we went through the formal process, which has been fine," Buery said.
The State Assembly and State Senate approved the legislation, sending it to Cuomo.
But Cuomo and de Blasio have been feuding for years now, and no one is quite sure what will happen.
A Cuomo aide said it is under review, one of 500 bills on Cuomo's desk. He has until Wednesday at midnight to act.
Even building the major pre-k center won't alleviate the neighborhood's overcrowding issues: They need about 500 pre-kindergarten seats, and the center would provide about 60 percent of what's needed.
The de Blasio administration initially said the pre-k classes would be open by 2019. Now, they're hoping for 2020.