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Downtown School Rezoning Would Slice TriBeCa in Half

By Julie Shapiro | September 23, 2011 6:59am

LOWER MANHATTAN — The Department of Education's sweeping rezoning of lower Manhattan's schools proposes to slice a large chunk out of the zone for TriBeCa's popular but overcrowded P.S. 234.

The city's plan, unveiled at a District 2 Community Education Council meeting Thursday night, would send TriBeCa children living north of North Moore Street to P.S. 3 in Greenwich Village, rather than to P.S. 234.

The proposal also alters the zones for P.S. 89 and P.S. 276 in Battery Park City and the Spruce Street School near City Hall, to carve out space for Downtown's new elementary school at the Peck Slip Post Office site.

"Our goal is to reduce, if not completely eliminate, [kindergarten] waitlists," said Elizabeth Rose, a portfolio planner for the Department of Education.

"That is a very audacious goal…but it is what we're hoping to achieve."

The most dramatic part of the DOE's plan is to shrink P.S. 234's zone to a narrow rectangle of TriBeCa, bounded by North Moore, Liberty, West and Church streets.

In recent years, P.S. 234 has received dozens more kindergarten applications than available seats, and this year had a waitlist of 38 students.

Rose said she knows that cutting into P.S. 234's zone will raise concerns, especially because TriBeCa children will have to cross Canal Street to get to school for the first time in more than 20 years.

The one alternative would be to send children in the east part of lower Manhattan to P.S. 1 and P.S. 126 in Chinatown, and then to send the TriBeCa children to the Spruce Street School and the new Peck Slip School, Rose said.

But there is more public transportation running north-south than east-west, so Rose decided it would be easier for TriBeCa children to go to P.S. 3.

"It's about transportation and trying to find the best match…for these students," Rose said.

The Department of Education is also proposing the following new zones for Downtown schools:

-P.S. 89 in northern Battery Park City will take students west of West Street and north of Liberty Street.

-P.S. 276 in southern Battery Park City will take students south of Liberty Street and west of Broadway.

-The new Peck Slip School will take students from Liberty Street up to the Brooklyn Bridge, east of Broadway on the south side of Fulton Street and east of Gold Street on the north side of Fulton Street.

-The Spruce Street School will take students from the remaining Downtown area, including northeast TriBeCa and the neighborhood around City Hall.

Rose said the Department of Education's proposal is just a first draft, and she looks forward to hearing feedback from parents.

The District 2 Community Education Council, a body mostly comprised of Manhattan parents serving as volunteers, may suggest changes to the zoning plan before voting on a final version in December.

The changes will apply to kindergarten enrollment in the fall of 2012, when the Peck Slip School will start with just kindergarten classes in temporary space at Tweed Courthouse. All current students will remain in their schools, and the city will not separate siblings, Rose said.

To draw the zoning lines, the DOE used figures based on the number of applicants each zone received this year, Rose said.

Several CEC members criticized the methodology at Thursday's meeting and urged the DOE to also consider population projections based on birth rates and new residential construction.

The District 2 Community Education Council will hold a hearing on the lower Manhattan rezoning, Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 234, 292 Greenwich St. People can also e-mail comments to D2zoning@gmail.com.