Parents in Williamsburg concerned as daycare closes

For more than fifty years, the building at 152 Manhattan Avenue, in Williamsburg has been home to a pre-school. By the end of the month, it won’t. As Gregoire Molle reports, gentrification in the neighborhood is affecting daycares, too. (00:15)

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AMBI teacher greeting a child. Fades in under narration.

Parents will be bringing their kids to this daycare center only for a few more days. Julie Rodriguez says her commute will probably be more difficult from January.

RODRIGUEZ: Now I really have to take my son on the bus, take my newborn kid on the bus with me to go and drop him off and I don’t think that’s right for the kids. (00:08)

AMBI fades out

Nidia Nieves has been a teacher at the center since 2001.

NIEVES: We were always full and we had a waiting list that was so long. (00:04)

That was until three years ago, when Nieves says enrollment started going down. This center provides subsidized childcare for low-income families, and this population has been leaving Williamsburg. Nieves says she couldn’t stay in the neighborhood.

NIEVES: I moved out of Williamsburg, because I can’t afford to stay, I can’t afford to find an apartment there. Sadly, a lot of the families, because when I went and I told them who we have to move out of this community I can’t afford an apartment they were like “Waah you are like the seventh or eighth family that has…” This is happening to us a lot lately. (00:19)

The closing of the daycare could accelerate gentrification in Williamsburg. Because they have trouble finding daycare spots, more low-income families might choose to leave the neighborhood. That’s according to Professor Mario Small. He teaches Sociology at Harvard University, and he wrote a study on childcare centers and their impact on families in New York City.

Small, says that having a daycare close-by is essential for working parents.

SMALL: Suppose you couldn’t find a nanny, period, you didn’t have that capacity. You would depend on the centers, that are stable that are near you, that are convenient, that make it possible for you to keep going to work. In the absence of those things, it actually becomes extremely difficult to organize your life. (00:13)

According to Small, low-income families living in other gentrifying neighborhoods have struggled with the closure of institutions catering to their needs.

SMALL: The issues being faced in Brooklyn are basically the issues that were faced some years ago in Manhattan, in other communities that were increasingly gentrified, and frankly this is still happening in some parts of upper Manhattan. (00:12)

Williamsburg still harbors a dozen publicly funded daycare centers. But in the middle of school year, it’s hard for parents to find a replacement. Julie Rodriguez tried to get her son into another childcare center nearby.

RODRIGUEZ: They are full are really really jam-packed, like, I have to be on the waiting list. (00:05)

If she gets in, Rodriguez will only have to pay a few hundred dollars a year, maximum. Spots are available immediately at private daycare centers, but the fees there can be as much as $19,000 a year.
Gregoire Molle, Columbia Radio News.

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