NYC demand for free 3K seats exceeding supply in nearly 50% of city zip codes: data

The huge demand for free preschool seats is outpacing supply in nearly 50% of the Big Apple’s zip codes — despite hundreds of the 3K spots remaining vacant in other stretches of the city, newly released data show.

Brooklyn’s Bath Beach is among the neighborhoods facing the biggest shortages of free childcare spots for 3-year-olds, with 633 applicants vying for just 232 seats, according to the city’s education department data.

A similar shortage plagued parents in Parkchester in the Bronx, where there were 420 applicants for 162 seats. And in central Staten Island, 432 applicants were competing for the region’s allocated 253 seats, per the data.

“The problem is lots of the daycare centers participate in 3K so they already have two-year-olds in the daycare. When they turn 3, they have priority,” Queens mom Cheme Gurung, 40, told The Post on Wednesday of the struggle to snag her daughter a spot.

A demand for free 3K preschool seats is outpacing supply in nearly 50% of the Big Apple’s zip codes — despite hundreds of spots remaining vacant in other stretches of the city, newly released DOE data show. Getty Images
A demand for free 3K preschool seats is outpacing supply in nearly 50% of the Big Apple’s zip codes — despite hundreds of spots remaining vacant in other stretches of the city, newly released DOE data show. Getty Images

Gurung, who is a managing director in a private equity firm, currently has applications out for 12 different 3K programs across Astoria where the majority of seats are already filled up.

“Right now I don’t even know if my daughter got into any,” she said, adding she won’t find out until May. “I am hoping for the best. There is no Plan B. Plan B is probably me going out of my zone or district and probably paying for it.”

On the other end of the spectrum, though, there were hundreds of freed up seats in sections of the city with no one trying to snatch them up.

In Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, for example, there were 821 free seats but only 247 applicants, according to the data.

East Flatbush in Brooklyn had just 320 applicants for 3K in a neighborhood that has capacity for 829 preschool seats. Meanwhile, in neighboring Brownsville, there was a surplus of 397 seats for its 778 spot capacity.

Citywide, there was a surplus of more than 10,000 seats, with a total of 41,622 applications for the 52,766 spots available in the Big Apple’s free toddler program, according to the data, which was first obtained by Gothamist.

“Get your children in from they are babies,” Brooklyn mom, Ilona Lelch, said as she offered up advice on securing 3K spots in competitive areas like Bath Beach where she lives.

Her 3-year-old son was among those given preferential treatment because he’d already been attending a daycare program prior to being eligible for 3K.

“The nursery has a certain amount of spots. We were lucky to get into that so we could get into this,” she said, noting her sister was forced to stay home to take care of her daughter because she couldn’t even get on the waiting list.

“That inconvenienced her a lot and babysitters were too expensive,” Lelch added.

The figures emerged in the same week Schools Chancellor David Banks and other DOE officials were grilled by the City Council at a hearing over what the Adams administration was doing to address the existing gaps in seats, as well as looming budget cuts to the program.

The data emerged in the same week Schools Chancellor David Banks and other DOE officials were grilled by the City Council over what the Adams administration was doing to address the existing gaps in seats. William Farrington
The data emerged in the same week Schools Chancellor David Banks and other DOE officials were grilled by the City Council over what the Adams administration was doing to address the existing gaps in seats. William Farrington

The 3K program, which can save parents tens of thousands of dollars in childcare, is among the initiatives currently backed by $93 million in federal stimulus cash set to dry up on June 30.

It is also among the programs facing $170 million in possible reductions overall this fiscal year amid a string of citywide budget cuts.

Hizzoner and other admin officials have long cited challenges with long-term funding for the 3K program, which was expanded under Mayor de Blasio’s administration with the COVID relief funds.

The current administration has insisted they are focused, in part, on revamping 3K by shuffling seats in neighborhoods where they’re are most in demand.

“You may as a parent want a particular program. That program may be filled up. You may not be able to get that program which is half a block away. We will always endeavor to give you a placement as close as possible,” the DOE’s Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg told council members at the hearing.

“What we are trying to do is make sure that there are seats for every child who needs one.”

During his testimony, Banks called cuts to the city’s early childhood programs “extremely hurtful” and said the DOE was “fighting like heck” to save them.

“I have personally been in deep conversation with the mayor and the mayor’s office around early childhood,” he testified. “Maybe this will prevent a whole series of questions that remain, but I am fighting like heck to make sure that those cuts are restored.”

“This is a major priority for us,” he added.

The education bigwig acknowledged that the DOE was still waiting on the results of a study commissioned over a year ago from consulting firm Accenture to track where 3K seats are most needed throughout the city.

That report is expected early next month, Banks said.