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City Abandons Rezoning Plans for Village and Chelsea

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 09:52 AM

10:45 a.m. |Update

City officials have dropped their plans to rezone crowded public elementary schools in Greenwich Village and Chelsea after a parent council voted down their most recent plan.

Instead, officials will focus on zoning in Lower Manhattan, and they presented a third version of a zoning plan for the new Peck Slip School on Monday night.

For months, families in Greenwich Village and Chelsea have battled over the boundary lines that determine where their children will attend elementary school. Some parents favored zoning changes as a way of redistributing students and potentially easing overcrowding. But others protested that another rezoning would need to take place in a few years anyway, and redrawing the lines twice made little sense.

Parents at two schools, Public School 41 Greenwich Village and Public School 3 Charrette School, were divided over whether they should continue their unusual arrangement of sharing a zone or carve out a zone for each school.

The city's Department of Education submitted one plan, modified it and tried again, but parents' unhappiness proved too great. This month, members of District 2′s community education council weighed in, unanimously rejecting the proposal.

Rather than try for a third time to win over parents with a new zoning map, the Department of Education is backing away from these plans and instead focusing on Lower Manhattan, where a new school will open next year.

Called the Peck Slip School after the post office building it will eventually inhabit, the school is still zone-less after two attempts by the Department of Education to create zoning plans that appeal to parents in Battery Park, TriBeDa and the financial district.

Parents are looking for "a better final offer," said Michael Markowitz, a member of the parent council, after the group voted down the department's most recent rezoning proposal.

On Monday night, city education officials made attempt No. 3. At a meeting at P.S. 130 Hernando de Soto in Chinatown, officials presented a new plan that is similar to a previous rezoning proposal, with one key difference: it would not affect any families zoned for P.S. 234 Independence School.

Elizabeth Rose, a representative from the portfolio planning division, said the new plan would create a zone for the Peck Slip School out of city blocks now within the P.S. 276 Battery Park City School and the Spruce Street School zones. The plan would also affect P.S. 89, which would lose a few blocks to P.S. 276 Battery Park City School.

The most recent proposal to leave P.S. 234's zone unchanged comes after the community education council and many parents said they would rather take the chance of winding up on a wait list in the spring than adjust the school's zone lines now, Ms. Rose said.

Parents and school principals raised concerns about another zoning proposal on Monday night, one that would change the zones of several schools on the Upper East Side to make room for a new school opening next September.

Sharon Hill, the principal of P.S 290 Manhattan New School, said she was worried that by losing blocks to the new school that will open inside the Our Lady of Good Counsel building, her school will not have enough students -- and the financing that travels with them -- to function.

"The current rezoning proposal intended to alleviate wait lists will inevitably lead to under-enrollment at P.S. 290," she said. "Under-enrollment, along with years of budget cuts, will have a devastating impact on our future budgetary allocations, and hence our ability to maintain practices that we value and consider integral."

Ms. Hill said the school has already dealt with budget cuts by cutting reading recovery teachers and the school's literacy coach. There is no longer any city money to pay for arts education, she said, and there's less professional development for teachers.


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