By Julie Shapiro and Andrea Swalec
LOWER MANHATTAN — The Department of Education released a sweeping new rezoning proposal for Downtown's schools Tuesday night, scrapping an unpopular plan to send TriBeCa children up to Greenwich Village and moving them instead to schools in Chinatown and near City Hall.
The DOE also unveiled a new rezoning proposal for Chelsea and the Village, which draws an east-west dividing line between P.S. 3 on Hudson Street and P.S. 41 on West 11th Street, while leaving the existing zones for P.S. 11 on West 21st Street and P.S. 33 on Ninth Avenue largely intact, as parents had requested.
Finally, the DOE announced a new zone for the future elementary school at the Foundling Hospital site in Chelsea, which would go into effect when the school opens in 2014.
The District 2 Community Education Council, the group of parents that must approve school zoning proposals, will hold public hearings over the next month and plans to vote on the proposals Dec. 14.
The most controversial aspect of the DOE's far-reaching plan will likely be the changes in lower Manhattan, including sending TriBeCa children living east of West Broadway and north of Murray Street to Chinatown's P.S. 1.
Those children previously attended TriBeCa's P.S. 234 and the Spruce Street School near City Hall, but those schools are too overcrowded to continue accommodating so many children, said DOE portfolio planner Elizabeth Rose.
Rose said P.S. 1, on Henry Street has 10 extra classrooms and will easily be able to accommodate an additional three-dozen kindergarteners from TriBeCa next fall.
But several parents and CEC members raised concerns about sending TriBeCa children out of their neighborhood to attend P.S. 1, partly because they will have to cross the busy Chatham Square intersection to get there.
"That's a really, really long hike," said Beth Cirone, a CEC member. "I think it's going to be really difficult for parents. I don't think people are going to be happy. I don't think it's safe."
Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, also criticized the city's proposal.
"What we heard tonight continues to split up parts of TriBeCa and parts of the east side of the district," she said.
But families in northwest TriBeCa, who opposed the city's earlier plan to send students up to P.S. 3 in the Village, were glad to hear that the city now plans to keep them zoned for P.S. 234 on Greenwich Street.
"Thank you for bearing in mind the safety of my son and keeping [our] community together," said Richard Hartell, 39, who lives in northwestern TriBeCa and has a four-year-old son.
In addition to chopping off the eastern part of P.S. 234's zone, the DOE also plans to cut out the southern portion, with the goal of permanently eliminating wait-lists at the popular school.
Under the DOE's plan, TriBeCa children living south of Murray Street on the west side of West Broadway and south of Chambers Street on the east side of West Broadway will now be zoned for the Spruce Street School, rather than P.S. 234.
Other changes in the Downtown zones include shrinking the zone for the new Peck Slip School, to allow some additional families on and around Nassau Street to attend the Spruce Street School instead, as they had requested.
But the Southbridge Towers complex is still going to be zoned for the Peck Slip School, even though many parents there have said they would rather be zoned for the Spruce Street School. The Southbridge parents say they don't like the fact that Peck Slip will spend its first three years in temporary space inside Tweed Courthouse, before its new building is ready in 2015.
In the Village, the DOE's new rezoning plan would eliminate the current choice that families have between sending their children to P.S. 3 or P.S. 41, directing them to only one of the two elementary schools.
Rose said strong demand by families for P.S. 41 created problems for the schools and the DOE.
"With a shared zone, it is extremely difficult managing the number of families who are applying to P.S. 41 and therefore managing the number of families who are not getting what they wanted in that choice process," she said.
An east-west dividing line was placed in the Village based on walking distances and the number of applicants to each school, Rose explained.
New housing proposed by Rudin Management as part of a pending zoning application was also considered in the projected enrollment numbers of P.S. 41, she noted.
In Chelsea, the DOE largely backed off of the changes proposed earlier this fall, which drew strong opposition from parents who felt that they were being forced out of their local schools.
While some families from the current P.S. 3/P.S. 41 zone will be directed north to Chelsea's P.S. 11, the current boundary between P.S. 11 and P.S. 33 will remain untouched, the DOE said.
The proposal would also create a zone for Community District 5's first public elementary school, at the site of the Foundling Hospital at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 17th Street. The school, which is scheduled to open in September 2014, would draw students from the southeastern end of Chelsea and the northeastern edge of the Village.
Children who fall into this catchment area would be zoned to attend P.S. 41 until the school opens, Rose said.
Once the Foundling school is open, any lingering wait-lists at P.S. 41 should be eliminated, she added.
Layla Law-Gisiko, chairwoman of Community Board 5's education committee, said she was "thrilled" to hear that the DOE had proposed to zone the Foundling school. She added, however, that she thought its boundaries seemed small.
Amid the larger zoning changes announced Tuesday night, the DOE also made a small change to the Upper East Side zoning plan: adding an extra block — East 85th to 86th streets between Lexington and Third avenues — to the zone for P.S. 290 on East 82nd Street.
P.S. 290 parents and staff had asked for even more blocks to be added into their school zone, because they were concerned that the school would be under-enrolled, but Rose said she expects the school to fill with zoned students.
The CEC will hold a working business meeting on Wed., Nov. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 111, 440 W. 53rd St., and a town hall meeting on the rezoning on Mon., Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 130, 143 Baxter St.
On Dec. 7 at 6 p.m., the CEC will host a town hall meeting with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, with a location to be announced. On Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m., the CEC will issue final votes on the zoning proposals, at 333 W. 17th St.
The CEC is also accepting comments by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.