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Luxury Real Estate Continues to Boom Next to Struggling School

By  Amy Zimmer and Emily Frost | June 19, 2015 8:21am | Updated on June 19, 2015 4:25pm

 The percentage of students at P.S. 191 who are disadvantaged has grown while area real estate has become more expensive. 
Luxury Real Estate Grows Next to Increasingly Disadvantaged School
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LINCOLN SQUARE — At the luxury rental Hawthorn Park on West 60th Street, residents can take a dip in a stone whirlpool spa and enjoy the promised “white glove service.”

Two streets north, renters at 21 West End Ave. can indulge at the building’s private wine bar while sending Fido to the on-site dog groomer.

These two housing developments are among a slew of new towers in the southernmost part of the neighborhood that have contributed to soaring real estate prices for both rentals and sales.

Yet these pricey housing options stand in stark contrast to the nearest public school, P.S. 191, where eight out of every 10 students are deemed "economically disadvantaged" by the New York State Education Department.

 Median asking prices for rentals and sales in the P.S. 191 zone were higher than the P.S. 199 zone, according to 2014 Streeteasy data compiled for DNAinfo.
Median asking prices for rentals and sales in the P.S. 191 zone were higher than the P.S. 199 zone, according to 2014 Streeteasy data compiled for DNAinfo.
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The disparity between the high price to live in the area and the low socioeconomic status of students at the K-8 school has education advocates searching for ways to fix the imbalance.

The school also has less-than-stellar test scores, falling below the district’s average on state tests in 2014.

Last year, the median asking price of apartments with three or more bedrooms between West 59th and West 66th streets was $6.7 million; for rentals, the median was $14,000 a month.

But people moving into the new luxury buildings within the P.S. 191 zone aren't necessarily sending their kids there.

Many of the newcomers are empty-nesters who want a pied-à-terre near Lincoln Center, or families from abroad, as well as immigrants from Russia, Turkey, China and Korea who are not sending their kids to P.S. 191, said Emily Glickman, private school consultant for Abacus Guide Educational Consulting.

“The new New Yorkers I'm seeing in this area are choosing private school," she said. "They perceive it as superior."

However, in just a few years, these wealthy parents could be drawn to the brand-new 500-student public school, P.S. 342, opening in 2018 at the base of 21 West End Ave. — potentially exacerbating the racial and socioeconomic segregation at neighborhood schools, education leaders said.  

The district’s Community Education Council is debating how to redraw zone lines so that they don’t encourage wealthy enclaves and “gated communities,” as some residents have described the new development projects, especially those in Riverside South, which runs from West 59th Street to 72nd Street along the Hudson River.

One idea, for instance, is to combine the zones of 191 and the new school so that one school houses pre-K to 2nd grade and the other school offers 3rd to 5th grade,  thereby integrating the two school populations.

Another concept is to create a single “super zone,” in which students choose between P.S. 191, the new school and nearby P.S. 199 — or are assigned by lottery.

Community leaders hope this might address enrollment disparities between P.S. 191, which is only 77 percent full, and P.S. 199, which is at 120 percent capacity and has the city’s longest kindergarten waitlist.

Creating a “super zone” is not popular among all P.S. 199 parents, who’ve said they “paid a premium to be in the good school zone.” 

The disparity in real estate prices between the zoned districts that feed into P.S. 191 and P.S. 199 might surprise some Upper West Siders, considering that many families target their real estate searches to qualify for P.S. 199.

The median prices for the P.S. 191 zone are almost double the median cost of homes just to the north, in the high West 60s and low West 70s — which is the zone for P.S. 199, the most coveted school in the district — according to data compiled for DNAinfo by StreetEasy.

At P.S. 199, 93 students were wait-listed this year by the Blue Ribbon-award winning elementary school and 98 were wait-listed last year, according to the DOE.

The children on the school’s waitlist were instead given offers to P.S. 191, which is just blocks away.

Families at P.S. 191 say it's on the upswing. The school has a new principal, enthusiastic PTA leadership and a new $900,000 multimedia lab. Still, wait-listed P.S. 199 parents are lobbying the DOE to ensure their children a spot at their zoned school.

"I think there's going to be a large group of families that go into 191 this year that are going to be thrilled,” said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the CEC.

“My prediction is that five years from now people are going to be talking about 191 like they’re talking about 199 today.”

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