NORTHERN MANHATTAN — Parents and politicians from across the city joined forces Tuesday to rail against the potential dezoning of their schools districts.
Through the day and at different points in the city — first at a rally outside the Department of Education's headquarters and later at a public forum in Washington Heights — parents from districts from Inwood to Greenpoint blasted the department for reintroducing the plan to remove school zones.
"Dezoning is a false choice," said Natasha Capers, a parent from Community Education Council District 23 in Brooklyn, a dezoned district. "My choice is a struggling school across the street — or a struggling school five blocks away."
Only a handful of neighborhoods in the city do not have school zones. While most city children are zoned to a specific elementary school based on their address, parents in District 1 in the East Village and the Lower East Side, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville and East New York can apply to any school in their district.
But parents whose districts could be dezoned said they wanted no part of it.
"We stand united against dezoning in our communities," added Tessa Wilson, president of Brooklyn's District 14 CEC, which passed a resolution in opposition to dezoning. "It's just another way for the DOE to put their food in our neck."
The Brooklyn parents were rallying in support of the CEC's in Districts 5 in Harlem and District 6, which includes Washington Heights and Inwood. Parents in both districts have been enraged that dezoning proposals have sprung back up in recent months.
The controversial plan to remove school zones met heavy opposition in District 6 in the fall. However, the plan resurfaced in May, culminating with two contentious CEC meetings.
City Councilman Robert Jackson, who organized Tuesday's activities, has been an outspoken opponent of dezoning. At the rally, Jackson said he didn't buy the DOE's claims that it is only proposing dezoning at districts where it has been requested.
"I do not believe the Department of Education," Jackson said, adding that councils at District 5 or District 6 never requested any dezoning discussions. "The Department of Education has said things before that were not the truth.
"Where I grew up if you don't tell the truth," Jackson said, "you lied."
The DOE has said in the past that there was no firm proposal for dezoning District 6 on the table. On Wednesday, DOE spokesman Devon Puglia responded to Jackson's claims, saying: "It's election season, which means more political grandstanding, more misinformation, and more name-calling."
"To be on a CEC agenda, we have to be invited, which we were,” Puglia added.
Members and parents from CECs in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, and 16 — City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and council candidates Mark Otto and Cheryl Pahaham — added that the belief that dezoning offered options was a farce.
"There's no choice," said Otto, an assistant principal at Facing History High School in Hell's Kitchen. "The choice is that you get to rank 1-12 on an application. Then it's a crapshoot."