As a video of a white jogger screaming at other white Brooklynites about local gentrification and being the first to “settle”* the neighborhood goes viral, an institutional battle about school desegregation is heating up in the same borough.
A group of more than 100 parents filed into Brooklyn Heights’ over-capacity Public School (PS) 108 on Monday night to protest a new zoning measure that would send students who live in the rapidly-gentrifying and increasingly white and upper-middle class neighborhoods of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill to a predominantly black school. The school, PS 307, is under capacity, located in Brooklyn Heights and serves many Arican-American students from the nearby Farragut public housing development.
While some parents at the meeting said that they were worried about plans being dropped on them too quickly, some community members spoke candidly to Gothamist about the racial underpinnings of the issue at hand:
“We know some white people don’t want to go to PS 307 because it’s predominantly black,” said a spokeswoman from The Church of the Open Door, which many residents of the Farragut Houses attend. “And some of the black people don’t want this influx of white people coming in. To do it so shockingly and so quickly…let’s stop the present plan and fight for the time to create a new plan.”
The president of the body that will vote on the rezoning plan acknowledged a seeming despondency in response to the process:
“This is a difficult process, and we don’t do it well in NYC,” said David Goldsmith, president of Community Education Council 13, which will ultimately vote on the rezoning. “We’re the most segregated school system in the country. These are communities that aren’t used to working together.”
In an interview with Raw Story, a father and PTA co-president at PS 307 said that the school has actually benefited from their small numbers, and parents there are worried about the impact that an influx of wealthier, predominantly-white students might have:
“We have Pre-K and kindergarten students learning Mandarin three times a week,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones, co-president of the school’s PTA and the father of a kindergartener. “We have our second-graders learning to play violin, we have a health and wellness program. But you just look at the outward appearance—you see the Farragut houses.”
*Post has been updated since publication for clarity and length. “Setttler” terminology had replaced other details about the incident.