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Downtown and UES School Rezoning Plan Approved by Education Council

By DNAinfo Staff on December 15, 2011 8:24am

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DOE Zoning 11/29
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Billy Figueroa

By Julie Shapiro and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Staff

CHELSEA — The District 2 Community Education Council approved sweeping zoning changes for schools in lower Manhattan and on the Upper East Side Wednesday night.

The CEC's near-unanimous vote came after a long battle this fall between parents, principals and the Department of Education over how to relocate the zone lines in an effort to ease overcrowding and carve homes for new schools.

After several rounds of proposals and hearings, the CEC ultimately rejected the city's proposals for Chelsea and Greenwich Village, but approved major changes in lower Manhattan and on the Upper East Side that will go into effect in the fall of 2012.

“It is really a hard thing, this rezoning, because we know some people will be disappointed whatever we do,” said CEC 2 president Shino Tanikawa, ahead of the vote at Chelsea's NYC Lab Middle School on West 17th Street.

In lower Manhattan, the CEC voted to carve a zone for the new Peck Slip School, which is opening next fall with kindergarten classes at Tweed Courthouse.

The Peck Slip School will take on some of the families currently zoned for the Spruce Street School near City Hall and P.S. 276 in southern Battery Park City, remaining at Tweed for three years before moving to its permanent home in 2015.

The CEC also voted to slightly shrink the zone for P.S. 89 in northern Battery Park City, rezoning the Gateway Plaza housing complex for P.S. 276 instead.

Amid the changes, the zone for TriBeCa's popular but overcrowded P.S. 234 will remain intact after parents in the neighborhood strongly objected to earlier proposals that would have sent their children to schools in Greenwich Village or Chinatown.

Although the Department of Education ultimately agreed to leave the zone for P.S. 234 as it is, officials warned that there would likely be a kindergarten lottery and waitlist at the school next year because there are more children in the zone than the school can accommodate.

Nonetheless, parents said they were largely satisfied by the plan.

“We’re very happy with the way things turned out, as are the Tribeca parents,” said Battery Park resident Sarah Cassell, whose 10-year-old son attends P.S. 89.

She thanked the CEC for its work advocating on behalf of a better plan.

“They did such an effective job with outreach,” she said.

On the Upper East Side, the CEC voted to create a zone for the new elementary school opening next fall in the former Our Lady of Good Counsel building on East 91st Street.

That new zone created a ripple effect of changes to the zones for P.S. 290, P.S. 151 and P.S. 158.

After hearing from concerned parents and administrators at P.S. 290 on East 82nd Street, who worried that the rezoning would cause their school to be under-enrolled, the DOE agreed last month to add one block back into the P.S. 290 zone — East 85th to 86th streets between Lexington and Third avenues.

P.S. 290 parents were confused about the DOE's decision to include that particular block, which is on the fringe of the school's zone, and school officials and parents continued to lobby the DOE to add more residents to the school's zone, including buildings on East 84th Street and East 85th Street between Second and York avenues, to no avail.

The decision left many fearful that the school would be left without the resources it needs.

Parent coordinator Sally Mason, 54, whose kids attended P.S. 290, said that she had “grave concerns” about under-enrollment at the school.

“You have an obligation not to harm our schools,” urged George Janes, 46, whose son is now in fifth grade at P.S. 290.

Some also lobbied the council to reconsider the zoning lines for the new Our Lady of Good Counsel school.

Mom Belinda Arnold, 39, urged the council to consider allowing her block to remain zoned for P.S. 151.

“This was our school and now it’s being taken away from us,” said Arnold, who explained that her East 88th Street building is just 300 feet away from P.S. 151

Members said they understood the frustrations of parents being pushed from zone to zone, but urged them to be patient and welcome the new school.

“We know that the proposal is not going to make everyone happy,” said council member Sarah Chu, who tried to assure still-frustrated parents even if their concerns may not have been addressed in the final plan, "Everyone is being heard."

The DOE had also made two separate rezoning proposals for Chelsea, Midtown West and Greenwich Village, which included shifting the catchment zone for P.S. 11 to include all families living north of 14th Street, pushing all students living north of 23rd Street and South of 26th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue, into P.S. 11 rather than P.S. 33, and splitting the West Village into two separate school zones.

Today parents have the choice between P.S. 3 and P.S. 41.

The second version had also including a new zone for the soon-to-be-built Foundling School, which isn’t set to open until September 2014.

The CEC rejected both those plans after parents railed against the separation of P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 and raised concerns about having to rezone the neighborhoods twice.

The new school zones in Lower Manhattan and on the Upper East Side will go into effect for fall 2012 kindergarten enrollment, which begins Jan. 9.

With reporting by Amy Zimmer.

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