Streams

Rezoning Will Not End Crowding Issues, District 2 Council Members Say

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 12:50 PM

Members of District 2’s Community Education Council indicated Wednesday night that they were not fully satisfied with the city's rezoning proposal for the sprawling Manhattan district, saying the plan would not accomplish what it sets out to do.

Though the education council members did not indicate which way they would vote, some said they were concerned about having to put West Village parents, who are heavily affected by the rezoning, through the rezoning process again in a few years, when new schools are built and new space problems arise in city schools.

“I will echo what a lot of parents said tonight: rezoning doesn’t solve overcrowding,” said Shino Tanikawa, the president of the District 2 Community Education Council.

Two other council members, Michael Markowitz and Eric Goldberg, co-chairmen of the rezoning committee, also echoed audience members' concerns that the plan's effectiveness would be short-lived.

The remarks came at another contentious meeting over the proposal, attended by nearly 150 parents, teachers and principals at Public School 116 in Murray Hill, and including members from school communities on opposite sides of the West Village that disagree over part of the plan.

The city’s Department of Education introduced the proposal to rezone the district, which includes the Upper East Side, Chelsea, the West Village, TriBeCa and Lower Manhattan, to deal with the immense growth that has occurred there in recent years.

The Education Department has said the plan will alleviate some of the pressure in the district’s schools. But since the West Village will not see a new school until one opens at the Foundling Hospital building in 2014, the city has proposed new zoning aimed specifically at two Greenwich Village schools: P.S. 3 Charette School, on Hudson Street, and P.S. 41 Greenwich School, on the other side of the Village on West 11th Street, which share a singular situation in that they are in the same zone, allowing parents a choice of which school their children will attend.

Both schools face overcrowding issues, and some parents are not happy with the way the city proposes to resolve the problem by sending some students to P.S. 11 William T. Harris, which is outside the zone.

P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 practice different educational philosophies, and many parents feel strongly about which one they want their child to attend. They also disagree about whether drawing a new line down the middle of the Village, taking away their choice of schools, is a good idea.

Parents from P.S. 3 say they want their school to remain an alternative choice for parents within the zone. They disputed rumblings at the meeting over whether they were accepting children from outside the zone, saying they have not done so in years.

“I implore that you please keep P.S. 3 a choice school,” Kate Brady, whose daughter is in first grade at P.S. 3, said at the hearing. “We accept children in zone. I want to quash this fallacy that we bring in children from outside of the zone. We don’t.”

P.S. 41 advocates support the proposal, contending that rezoning the Village to give each school its own zone would force the Department of Education to accept that there are too many children for too few seats in the neighborhood.

“If the zone is split, then P.S. 41 can have a conversation with the D.O.E. and say this is how overcrowded we are; it’s no longer a conversation where we say we’re overcrowded and they say P.S. 3 can take the overflow,” said Sandra Blackwood, the PTA president at P.S. 41.

Tensions carried outside the gymnasium, when parents from both schools met and continued their fierce debate over the proposal.

The Community Education Council will not vote on the proposals until later this year, possibly after holding more meetings with community members and parents.

“At this point we’re not leaning one way or the other,” said Mr. Goldberg, a co-chairman of the rezoning committee. “We’re trying to identify issues and work with the D.O.E. to resolve those issues.”

Elizabeth Rose, a representative from the Education Department's Division of Portfolio Planning, who briefly attended the meeting, said the agency was taking the Community Education Council's suggestions about the West Village and Lower Manhattan parts of the plan seriously. She declined to discuss the plan Wednesday night — a comment education council members took as a sign they were being heard.

“Zoning is why we’re here, but the issues in the city schools are really what’s pressing,” Mr. Goldberg said. “That’s the difficult piece; we’re talking about rezoning, but the real issues are capacity and class size, things that are more difficult to sort out.”

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