BY VICTOR PORCELLI
Safety hazards were found in three southern Brooklyn preschools during an audit of Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs carried out by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.
Between 2015 and 2017, the comptroller audited 33 New York City providers, ranging from public schools to community-based centers. All were part of the UPK programs started by the state in 1997 and expanded in New York City in 2014, when Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully pressed Albany to budget over $300 million toward the program.
Improving and expanding UPK was part of de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign, and three years later it was part of his second when he announced he would include three-year-olds in UPK by 2021. This most recent initiative, which de Blasio called “3-K for All,” was not the subject of the audit.
Of the preschool programs audited, IP Kids, a Montessori program in Gravesend, had one violation. Gateway City Academy, run by a community-based organization in Bay Ridge, had four. P.S. 1 The Bergen, a public school in Sunset Park, had 18 violations, according to the report.
“New York City is leading the way in providing access to Universal Pre-K programs, but some providers have health and safety hazards in their facilities that need to be fixed immediately,” DiNapoli said in a press release.
Twelve of P.S. 1’s 18 violations were for improper radiator shieldings or expired fire extinguishers. The school was one of 15 DOE schools included in the report that did not comply with fire drill requirements. It was also cited for having toxic cleaning materials in the reach of children, an unclean outdoor play area and improper storage of garbage.
In a statement to the Home Reporter, the DOE said that any issues found in the audit have since been addressed.
“Every Pre-K site is safe,” DOE spokesperson Will Mantell said. “We require programs to swiftly address any health and safety issues identified during frequent site visits, and if any dangerous condition is found at a site, the site is immediately closed. Our programs are on par with gold standard programs across the nation, and we stand firmly behind the dedicated teachers, leaders and staff who serve our children and families every day.”
Gateway City Academy, on the corner of Bay Ridge and Third Avenues, was also cited for having toxic cleaning supplies in reach of children. A few violations covered the cleanliness of the preschool, which was cited for a dirty ceiling and cigarette butts near children. According to the audit, the school also failed to notify parents when pesticides were being applied on grounds used by children — although it did comply with a requirement that pesticides be sprayed two or more days before students were expected to be on school grounds.
IP Kids was cited for improper storage of garbage.
Both Gateway City Academy and IP Kids did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time.