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But on Dec. 20, city officials unveiled a holiday surprise. The department said it planned to move a middle-grade charter school — Brooklyn East Collegiate, a member of the Uncommon Schools charter chain — into the space opening up at P.S. 9. In the four months since, P.S. 9 parents have fought City Hall, scoring a few upset victories. But they have also learned a hard lesson: once the mayor’s people set their sights on a location, the chances of successfully challenging a charter are slim. Supporters of district schools fear that once a charter moves in, it will take over the building. They resent being compared academically, when on average, charters in New York City have fewer poor, immigrant and special-education students. Even before the P.S. 9 parents got started, they were too late. To add a middle school, department regulations required P.S. 9 to have filed a letter of intent by April 13, 2010; the final application was supposed to have been filed by July 15, 2010. A classic Catch-22: There was no reason to apply until space was available, but by the time space was available, it was too late to apply.