Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at why Mayor Eric Adams is pulling back on plans to expand the city’s 3-K for All preschool program. We’ll also look at a new stained-glass window in an Upper West Side synagogue with a history.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Mayor Eric Adams is retreating from expanding the city’s so-called 3-K for All preschool program. It’s one of several policy differences that have become clear in the nearly 10 months since Adams succeeded Bill de Blasio as mayor. To understand what’s happening with the 3-K program, I turned to Emma G. Fitzsimmons, who has two young children, one who just started kindergarten at a public school and another who’s 2. She’s also our City Hall bureau chief.
The city’s prekindergarten and 3-K programs were cheered as national models. They appeared to provide a road map for the $200 billion national plan that President Biden proposed last year. Does the city still want to provide 3-K to families that want it?
The mayor says he still wants 3-K to be universal, but he is not committing to quickly adding more seats by next school year, which Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to do.
That is troubling to people who believe that the program needs to be universal to make it successful. I have a 2-year-old who was born during the pandemic, and we’re hoping that he can join 3-K next year, but we’re not sure if there will be a spot for him in our neighborhood.
Adams says he’s reassessing how 3-K fits into his broader early childhood education strategy. What is that strategy, and what do early childhood experts say about it?
When Adams was running for mayor, he talked about wanting to offer “universal child care” for children under 3. Now that he’s mayor, he is advocating for a plan that is not universal, but that wants to make child care much more affordable for poor families.
His education team is doing an assessment now to try to figure out what is the demand for each age group under 5 and which neighborhoods really need more seats.
Everyone agrees that early childhood education is important, but with limited resources, the city has to decide what to prioritize.
Adams’s schools chancellor told you “there have been a lot of messes to try to clean up.” It’s an astonishingly blunt statement. What did he mean?
He was very critical of the Education Department under Mayor de Blasio. He said the work force was too large, child care centers were not being paid on time, and there were too many empty 3-K seats in certain neighborhoods that weren’t being filled.
The whole child care industry has been destabilized by the pandemic — families left the city and workers quit; some parents were afraid to send their children to group child care settings because of the coronavirus. I think that education officials under Mayor de Blasio would say they did their best in difficult circumstances and they’re proud of the pre-K and 3-K programs.
With the city heading toward potential budget problems as federal pandemic funds run out, is 3-K an easy target for cutbacks?
Yes, the expansion of 3-K was funded with federal pandemic aid and needs a long-term funding source. If Mayor Adams has to make difficult choices, he might cut the budget for 3-K. He has already cut funding for public schools. That angered a lot of parents. Critics say he should cut the police budget instead. But he’s a former police captain who has been supportive of the police and has pledged to reduce crime.
What about the 3-K providers that are owed millions of dollars? Has the city been slow to send the checks? Is there any way to tell whose fault that might be?
Yes, the city still owes child care centers millions of dollars for the last school year. The nonprofit groups that run many of the centers are really upset. It’s not totally clear why they’re not being paid.
One contributing factor could be the fact that so many workers have left the Education Department this year because they’re not happy with the mayor’s agenda, some of whom had experience with the payment and contracting systems.
Expect a sunny day near the mid-70s, but prepare for a chance of showers. The evening is mostly clear with temps dropping to the high 50s.
Suspended today and tomorrow (Rosh Hashana).
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On a stained-glass window, an inscription the congregation’s founders knew
Where the words were is relevant to where they are now.
Where they are now is in the sanctuary of Congregation Ramath Orah, a synagogue on the Upper West Side that was founded in 1942 by Jewish refugees from Luxembourg.
Where the words were was in a synagogue in Luxembourg destroyed by the Nazis.
The words, from Isaiah 40:8, say that “the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” They are inscribed in an oculus, a circular stained-glass window, that was completed with a contribution from the Luxembourg government and dedicated in a ceremony last week.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, who was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, attended. His government offered an apology in 2015 for the wrongs suffered during the Nazi occupation.
The occupation had driven out the original members of Congregation Ramath Orah — among them Rabbi Robert Serebrenik, who had been the chief rabbi of Luxembourg and became the rabbi of the new congregation.
He had arranged clandestine and official convoys that carried several thousand Jews from Luxembourg. By the spring of 1941, the majority of Jews who had been in Luxembourg when the Nazis invaded had managed to escape.
Congregation Ramath Orah’s history says Rabbi Serebrenik had tried to intercede with German officials and was summoned to Berlin in March 1941, where he was taken to see the Nazi official Adolf Eichmann. As Rabbi Serebrenik walked toward Eichmann’s desk, Eichmann barked, “Three paces from my body, Jew!”
Later, back in Luxembourg, Rabbi Serebrenik was beaten by the Gestapo as he walked home after a Sabbath service.
Congregation Ramath Orah began a capital campaign several years ago and raised nearly $1 million to refurbish its building, which was built for a Unitarian church that vacated it during the Depression.
For decades the space for the oculus had been occupied by one with plain colored-glass squares. Jane Blumenstein, a former president of the congregation, said the one dedicated last week was paid for with $60,000 from the Luxembourg government. It was the work of the stained-glass artist Suzie Klein and has a Star of David with the colors of Luxembourg’s flag. The words in the center — the verse from Isaiah — had been displayed above the ark of the Torah in the synagogue in Luxembourg.
“The prime minister started by saying ‘I’m sorry,’” Rabbi Aviad Bodner of Congregation Ramath Orah said later. “He acknowledged the part the government had played and what happened in the Holocaust. There was a sense of owning up and taking responsibility. That was very meaningful.”
Whatever it is
I was riding the 1 to the Bronx. I was extremely upset and silently cursing the world around me.
I was sitting at the end of a bench near the door, and for no reason I began to focus my hurt on a man across from me, probably with tears in my eyes.
I remember that I was not really looking at him, and I remember screaming my thoughts in my head, just venting to myself.
When the train pulled into the next station, the man got up while I was still lost in my thoughts and yelling at the world. He stepped across the car to wait at the door.
Without my having said a single word out loud, he leaned over, put a hand on my shoulder and looked down at me.
“Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad,” he said, and then stepped out off the train.
My life changed in that instant, and I have never remembered since then why I was upset.
— John Orth
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Andrew Hinderaker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].