A $30,000 Question: Who Will Get a Free Preschool Seat in New York City?

In Brooklyn Heights, a couple that wanted to have a second child is reconsidering, anxious over crushing child care expenses and cutbacks to prekindergarten programs.

In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a mother may move to a more expensive neighborhood nearby where she would be more likely to receive no-cost child care when her daughter turned 3.

And in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, a mother who lost her job worries about what the future might hold if her daughter does not get into a free program.

Their stories are signs of the fresh upheaval that families across New York City are facing, as Mayor Eric Adams has abandoned plans to make the city’s 3-K program universal. The pullback comes as New Yorkers face an intensifying child care crisis that has helped fuel a sharp increase in poverty.

For nearly a decade, every 4-year-old in New York has been eligible for a free prekindergarten seat — and 3-year-olds were set to be next in line. The unusual program was designed to make staying in an increasingly unaffordable city more tenable for thousands of families, whose continued presence would also benefit the city’s economy.

But instead of expanding the 3-K program, the Adams administration has slashed the city’s preschool budget by about $170 million in recent months because of empty seats.

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