CATHIE CLOWN: New Chancellor Cathie Black's off-color attempts at humor only angered parents at a meeting with school officials.
Now that's Black humor.

Less than two weeks into her new gig, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has riled parents and public officials by jokingly suggesting that "birth control" was the solution to school overcrowding.

The off-color quip came in response to concerns by public-school dad Eric Greenleaf, who said at a meeting of parents and officials at state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's downtown office that there will be "huge shortages" of classroom space in lower Manhattan in coming years.

"Could we just have some birth control for a while?" Black cracked. "It could really help us all out a lot."

The public-service novice, who has spent her entire career in media and publishing, also dropped jaws at the meeting by likening her task of satisfying space-crunch concerns in every neighborhood to making "many Sophie's Choices" -- a reference to the book in which a mother in the Auschwitz death camp is forced to decide which of her two children will live.

"Everybody's face fell. You don't want to hear that reference when you're talking about children," said Tricia Joyce, whose kids attend the perennially overcrowded PS 234 in TriBeCa. "She could have been nervous, it could have been the first thing that came to her mind.

"I just hope she chooses to do something much better than what she says."

Some who were at the meeting said Black's levity was especially inappropriate given that she was addressing a community whose complaints about the scarcity of public-school seats has for years seemed to fall on deaf ears.

They said they came to hear solutions, not stand-up comedy.

"Those kinds of comments show a lack of understanding of what parents are going through," said Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1.

"The parents I spoke with after the meeting were very concerned about the comments she made because we're grappling with real issues."

After initially declining to comment, Department of Education spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz emphasized that Black takes the issue of crowded schools seriously, which is what prompted her participation in the monthly task-force meeting.

"She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke in the course of that conversation," said Ravitz.

Still, the sudden speed bump came just as Black was trying to pick up steam after a rocky appointment process -- and it raised new concerns about her lack of education experience.

"Overcrowding is not a funny subject," said city Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn). "Constituents have expressed concerns that Cathie Black is not qualified for this job, and my role is to stand with them always, as I do in this case."