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City Scraps Plan to Send TriBeCa Kids to Chinatown, But Warns of Waitlists

By Julie Shapiro | November 28, 2011 8:52pm | Updated on November 29, 2011 7:00am
P.S. 234 in TriBeCa will not send any of its students to Chinatown under a revised proposal by the Department of Education.
P.S. 234 in TriBeCa will not send any of its students to Chinatown under a revised proposal by the Department of Education.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

LOWER MANHATTAN — The city has scrapped an unpopular plan to send TriBeCa children to school in Chinatown, following an outcry from concerned parents and elected officials.

The Department of Education unveiled its third — and final — zoning proposal for Lower Manhattan Monday night, which will leave the zone for the sought-after P.S. 234 intact, rather than carving it up and sending some TriBeCa children to other neighborhoods.

However, a DOE official warned that even though P.S. 234's zone will remain untouched under the latest plan, not all children who are zoned for the school will receive a kindergarten seat there next fall.

"We will anticipate that 234 will likely have a waiting list [in the fall of 2012]," Elizabeth Rose, a portfolio planner for the DOE, told a packed auditorium of Downtown parents Monday night.

"But we heard the feedback from the [District 2 Community Education Council], from members of the community," Rose continued, "that this is preferable to prior proposals to rezone parts of P.S. 234 to P.S. 1 [in Chinatown] or P.S. 3 [in Greenwich Village]."

This fall, with the exact same zone in place, P.S. 234 had a waitlist of 38 students, a scenario that is likely to repeat itself next year, Rose said.

She did not say where students who did not win a kindergarten seat at P.S. 234 would go to school.

Some TriBeCa parents praised the DOE's decision but said they remained concerned about the rezoning process, which has yielded a new proposal every few weeks this fall.

"I think it's great, if it stays that way," said Thomas Ryan, a parent of a 3-year-old who lives on White Street and is zoned for the Spruce Street School. But he said he was worried for his neighbors who might get waitlisted at P.S. 234.

"Now there's a good outcome for me, but someone else in the community is going to suffer," Ryan continued. "You feel so helpless."

Aside from the decision to leave the P.S. 234 zone intact and not to send any TriBeCa kids to Chinatown, the new zoning proposal was very similar to the ones Rose first presented earlier this fall.

The impetus for the zoning is that the DOE needs to draw a zone for the new Peck Slip School, which will open with just kindergarten classes in an incubator at Tweed Courthouse in fall of 2012.

The Peck Slip School will take students east of Broadway south of Liberty Street, east of Nassau Street south of Fulton Street and east of Gold Street south of the Brooklyn Bridge, an area that includes Southbridge Towers.

The Spruce Street School near City Hall will continue taking students east of Church Street and north of Liberty Street, with the exception of the new zone carved out for the Peck Slip School; P.S. 89 in northern Battery Park City will take students west of West Street and north of Liberty Street; and P.S. 276 in southern Battery Park City will take students south of Liberty Street and west of Broadway.

Several Southbridge Towers residents said Monday night that they would prefer to remain zoned for the Spruce Street School, rather than being moved to the new Peck Slip School.

"You're really slicing and dicing this community up," said Danielle Bello, who lives in Southbridge and has a 3-year-old daughter.

Paul Hovitz, a Community Board 1 member and Southbridge resident, asked the DOE to give Southbridge families the option to choose between Spruce and Peck Slip, rather than zoning the middle-income complex to one school or the other.

The District 2 Community Education Council, a body of elected and appointed parents that has the final say on rezoning proposals, is scheduled to vote on the DOE's latest proposal on Dec. 14. The CEC rejected the DOE's previous plan earlier this month.