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Final School Rezoning Plan for UWS Revealed With Principals' Support

By Emily Frost | November 10, 2016 4:17pm
 The DOE has presented two new zoning proposals for the neighborhood, one from West 59th Street to West 116th Street and another for Central Park North to West 124th Street.
Upper West Side Zoning Maps
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The city unveiled its final plan Wednesday for redrawing school zoning lines in the neighborhood that included an entirely new proposal — earning the support of local principals but finding opposition from at least one education leader and a host of parents.

The Department of Education presented its final draft plan for District 3, which stretches from West 59th Street up to West 124th Street, at a meeting at the Joan of Arc school on West 93rd Street. 

Community Education Council 3 will vote on the plan on Nov. 22, and if passed, the changes would go into effect for the 2017-2018 school year. 

The new map shares many of the characteristics of past drafts, including controversial changes like moving two buildings from Lincoln Towers in the P.S. 199 zone into the zone for P.S. 191, as well as relocating P.S. 452 to a building on West 61st Street building from its current home on West 77th Street. The draft plan also involves moving P.S. 191 to the new P.S. 342 building opening next fall in the Riverside Center.

In addition, the DOE proposed a third school re-siting: moving Dual Language Middle School from its West 92nd Street building to the O'Shea complex on West 77th Street.

The move would give P.S. 84, an elementary school that shares space with Dual Language Middle School, more space to grow, the department said. 

Then, unveiling a completely new option, the DOE introduced another zoning scenario Wednesday that related only to the northern part of the school district that would shifts lines there. 

Under this plan, the zone for P.S. 241 would be dissolved and split up between P.S. 180 to the west, P.S. 185 and P.S. 208 to the east, and P.S. 76 to the north. The zones for P.S. 149 and P.S. 242 would not change.

The proposal comes on the heels of an announcement by the department last month that it would move P.S. 241 on West 113th Street into the P.S. 76 building on West 121st Street.

However, CEC 3 members said the second rezoning proposal arrived too late in the process, didn't involve enough community feedback and doesn't provide the same level of resources to the northern schools.

The meeting quickly shifted back to focusing on the proposal for the southern end of the district, which has been at the heart of the year-and-a-half-long rezoning process.

Many local principals attended the meeting to make their pitch to parents and CEC members about why the zoning plan should get approved.

Princial Henry Zymeck, who leads the Computer School inside the O'Shea Complex — a school the DOE said would gain more space from having P.S. 452 vacate the building — put it bluntly.

"Overcrowding sucks. It really does. When you drop your kids off at school sometimes you don’t realize how much it sucks," he said. 

The lack of space in the building means less time for gym and the arts, as well as teachers having to make compromises in how they instruct, principals said.

Principals from P.S. 75, P.S. 163, P.S. 191, P.S. 84 and Dual Language Middle School also voiced support for the plan.

After listening to shouting from unhappy parents who said the plan felt like a done deal, P.S. 452 Principal Scott Parker made an emotional plea to parents to keep an open mind about the school's proposed move.

Some parents have said that moving to West 61st Street would break apart the small, tight-knit community they've forged and create an untenable commute for elementary school children. 

"I recognize that this is not the popular choice. It’s really hard to stand up here and say things that we know a lot of people don’t want to hear," Parker said. 

But the move would give the school space to grow its enrollment, add pre-K classes, have enhanced physical education and technology, and give administrators more space, among other benefits, he said.

Parker urged those assembled, several of whom called the meeting a waste of time, to behave well.

"Please remember our kids are watching," he said. "We do have a choice on how we can react here."

The re-siting also troubled parents at the neighboring P.S. 87, who worry that P.S. 452 parents who don't want to travel to West 61st Street will end up sending their children to their school, exacerbating overcrowding there. 

DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul responded to that concern by saying that the department would work with families — an answer that did not satisfy parents or CEC members concerned about a repeat of past overcrowding crises. 

CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum, who has criticized past zoning drafts, called the process "a sham" and said it was developed in private. He added that holding public meetings on a done deal was "Orwellian."

"This wasn’t thought out," he said. "It was just developed and voted on."

There will be two public hearings on the plan before the vote, members noted.