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Parents' Panel May Reject Unpopular Downtown School Rezoning

By Julie Shapiro | October 18, 2011 12:08pm
P.S. 234 in TriBeCa is popular among neighborhood residents.
P.S. 234 in TriBeCa is popular among neighborhood residents.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

TRIBECA — The District 2 Community Education Council slammed the city's proposed rezoning of lower Manhattan's schools on Monday night, warning that they may reject the most controversial aspects of the city's plan.

CEC members questioned the Department of Education's proposal to shift children from northern TriBeCa out of the overcrowded P.S. 234 zone and into Greenwich Village's P.S. 3, because that move would send a ripple effect all the way up to Chelsea, displacing dozens of additional families from their neighborhood schools.

"These proposals are wreaking chaos all the way up through Chelsea, for maybe 12 families, 15 families [in northern TriBeCa]," said Sarah Chu, the CEC's treasurer.

"The number of people you would be displacing compared to the benefit you would get — I don't think it is worth it, to me."

Michael Markowitz, another CEC member, said the TriBeCa families were unfairly being forced to bear the burden of the city's poor planning for new school seats across lower Manhattan.

"It's just not a fair distribution of the pain," Markowitz said.

The CEC, a panel of appointed and elected parents, has the authority to approve, reject or suggest modifications to the DOE's rezoning proposal, and will likely take a final vote in December.

Monday night marked the first time that CEC members voiced their own opinions on the city's proposals, after listening to hours of public feedback at three meetings earlier this month.

Several CEC members said they sympathized with north TriBeCa families who have asked for the current P.S. 234 zone to stay intact, so they could have a chance of attending the popular school.

"It's ridiculous," Demetri Ganiaris, a member of the CEC, said of cutting north TriBeCa off from P.S. 234. "There is no [other] school from them to go to. [P.S.] 234 is their school."

If the CEC leaves P.S. 234's zone in place, rather than shrinking it as the DOE proposed, the school will likely continue receiving more kindergarten applications than it can accommodate and will have to hold a lottery for seats.

But northern TriBeCa families said they would prefer to try their luck in a lottery, rather than being definitively zoned for P.S. 3 in the Village.

It is unclear where kindergarteners who did not win the P.S. 234 lottery would go to school — most recently the DOE proposed sending them to P.S. 130 in Chinatown, which many parents opposed. The DOE has also recently mentioned that there is extra space available in Chinatown's P.S. 1 and P.S. 126.

If the P.S. 234 zone stays intact, then there would be no need to make the DOE's unpopular proposed changes to the zones for P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 in the Village and P.S. 11 and P.S. 33 in Chelsea, CEC members said.

However, under that scenario, the CEC might still consider dividing the shared P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 zone into two separate school zones, depending on public feedback, said Shino Tanikawa, president of the CEC.

Also, regardless of what the CEC decides to do elsewhere in lower Manhattan, the CEC will definitely draw a zone for the new Peck Slip School, which is starting with just kindergarten classes next fall in temporary space inside the Tweed Courthouse, Tanikawa said.

Several CEC members said it was difficult for them to make any decisions about zoning, because the Department of Education has not provided them with detailed school population projections to back up the proposed zone lines.

CEC members also said the true solution to lower Manhattan's overcrowding will not come until the city builds more schools.

"We shouldn't be under the illusion that even if we somehow get this zoning right, it solves the problem," said Eric Greenleaf, a public member of the CEC.

"We need more schools, and rezoning doesn't create seats."

The next meeting of the CEC will be held Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 116, 210 E. 33rd St.