Volume 19 • Issue 5 | June 16 - 22, 2006


More schools needed to meet Downtown residential growth

While Downtown’s restless students wait as the last few days of the school year drag on before summer vacation, it is a natural time to think about where their yet-to-be born siblings and their soon-to-be neighbors and friends will be going to school.

By all accounts Lower Manhattan was the fastest growing part of the city before 9/11, and thankfully, that trend has continued since the attack. Community Board 1 estimates that since 2000, over 15,000 homes have been built or are about to be built Downtown. The population is likely to grow by at least 31,000 within the current decade – nearly doubling the 2000 population of 34,000. Once the likely projects are included, the Downtown population may very well grow to 75,000 by 2015, as C.B. 1 predicts.

The city, which has wisely encouraged this boom, has made some plans to accommodate the expanding population. A school annex for overcrowded P.S. 234 is under construction in Tribeca and construction on a 600-seat, K-8 school on Beekman St. should begin soon. These are significant developments that will help relieve the overcrowding, but they may not be enough.

Currently the zoned middle school for Lower Manhattan, M.S. 104, is nearly an hour away from parts of Downtown. I.S. 89 in Battery Park City does not have enough seats to guarantee slots to the graduating students from P.S. 89, P.S. 234 and P.S. 150. That problem has been more theoretical than actual until now because many of the parents of these graduating students like the choice system and have been happy in Uptown middle schools. That situation will not continue once all of the families move into the new buildings being built.

With the Beekman school coming, city Education Dept. officials should reexamine the needs in Lower Manhattan and begin consulting now with the community about the ideal number of middle and elementary school seats in both Beekman and the P.S./I.S.89 building.

More middle school seats will likely be needed. Julie Menin, C.B. 1’s chairperson, has suggested building a zoned middle school on the World Trade Center Tower 5 site. Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the city’s point person on rebuilding, seemed annoyed last week when the Tower 5 idea became public, but he also said he would consider it.

He’d be foolish not to. It goes hand-in-glove with the city idea to add residential towers south of the W.T.C., along Fulton St. and at the Tower 5 site itself.

Although the limited activity at the W.T.C. site may give the impression that Downtown redevelopment is moribund, it is anything but if one factors in the residential boom in Tribeca, B.P.C. and the Financial District. More schools will be essential to make this residential revival a success, and given lag times, the time to start planning is now.


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