Photo by: Alice Proujansky

About 1,500 parents, children and other community activists marched across Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall on Wednesday, to protest the Administration for Children’s Services’ plans to shutter 16 public day care centers and eliminate 31 more day care classes.

The cuts, if enacted, would slash about 2,000 of New York’s public day care slots and 400 jobs. Only 27 percent of the city’s eligible families use safe, quality, affordable day care, said G.L. Taylor, political director for District Council 1707, a union representing some of the public daycare workers. “We need more quality day care centers, not less,” Taylor said.

Testimony ACS officials gave earlier this year at a City Council budget hearing suggests otherwise. Fewer families are enrolling in public day care, officials said. Last fiscal year enrollment was at 94 percent of capacity, according to the Council’s response to Mayor Bloomberg’s 2011 budget. This fiscal year it has fallen to 87 percent, the report says.

Fewer families are using the service, possibly because the demographics of the surrounding communities are changing, with gentrification introducing more childfree households, ACS officials testified. Organizers of the protest disagree.

“That’s a falsehood,” Taylor said. “The area they’re talking about being gentrified, many of them have public housing right next to the day care centers.”

The real reason enrollment is below capacity is that the city diverted to other assignments 35 of the 50 case workers responsible for enrolling families. “There’s an extremely long waiting list to make these families eligible,” Taylor said. “If 100 parents come in, maybe only 5 or 10 become eligible.”