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TriBeCa Parents Speak Out Against School Rezoning Proposal

By Julie Shapiro | October 5, 2011 4:55pm

TRIBECA — Furious TriBeCa parents flooded a public hearing Tuesday night to oppose a school rezoning plan that would cut them out of the popular P.S. 234.

The parents, some on the verge of tears, said the Department of Education's plan — which would send TriBeCa children living north of North Moore Street up to P.S. 3 in Greenwich Village, rather than to P.S. 234 — would put TriBeCa kids in danger and tear apart the tight-knit neighborhood.

"This plan is effectively dividing the community in half," said Nicole Eldridge, who lives at Greenwich and Hubert streets and has a 3-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son. 

Eldridge said she and her husband moved to TriBeCa so they could drop their children off at P.S. 234 on their way to work, and their daughter has already made friends with local kids who Eldridge assumed would be her future classmates.

"[The rezoning] is asking you to not really be neighbors with your neighbors," Eldridge said.

The parents spoke at a District 2 Community Education Council hearing on the rezoning proposal Tuesday night, which drew more than 100 people to P.S. 234's auditorium.

Many parents raised concerns about crossing the traffic on Canal Street to get to P.S. 3, which they said would make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to bring their kids to school safely.

"It's really dangerous," said Melissa Goldsmith, a North TriBeCa resident with a 3-year-old son and newborn twins.

Goldsmith and others pointed out that Canal Street functions as an on-ramp to the Holland Tunnel, with cars speeding up to make lights. Several parents added that they are concerned about the mile-long walk to P.S. 3, which traverses an industrial area that hosts at least one strip club.

A few parents also worried about how the rezoning would affect the value of their apartments when they want to sell them in the futue.

"Who would want to move to North TriBeCa knowing they would be kicked out of their neighborhood to go to school?" asked Wendy Driscoll, 33, who has two young children and lives at Greenwich and Hubert streets.

The city proposed shrinking P.S. 234's zone because the overcrowded school annually receives far more applications than it can accommodate and this year had a kindergarten waitlist of 38 children.

A new school at the Peck Slip Post Office site will help alleviate the overcrowding, but the Department of Education still needs to send some TriBeCa children north of Canal Street, to ensure that P.S. 234 won't have waitlists in the future, said Elizabeth Rose, a DOE official.

"We know that this is painful," Rose told parents Tuesday night. "We know that this is unexpected. We are doing the best we can."

The DOE's proposal also shifts the zones for P.S. 89 and P.S. 276 in Battery Park City and the Spruce Street School near City Hall to carve a new zone for the Peck Slip School.

The Community Education Council, a body composed mostly of parent volunteers, may suggest modifications to the zoning proposal later this fall to vote on in December.

Downtown parent activists said the rezoning will not solve Downtown's school overcrowding problems, but will just temporarily mask it by shifting students.

"While [the rezoning] might work in the short term," said Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent, "no matter how you slice this pie, it doesn't make more pie…. It just seems like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to me."

The District 2 Community Education Council will hold additional hearings on this and other rezoning proposals over the next week and is also accepting comments on Facebook and at d2zoning@gmail.com.