Volume 22, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 20 - 26, 2009
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School zone option would cut building along income lines
By Julie Shapiro
One option for zoning Lower Manhattan’s elementary schools would cut through the Whole Foods building, giving luxury condo owners the key to P.S. 234 while the middle and low-income renters would go to the Spruce Street School half a mile away.
Parents at 89 Murray St., the affordable rental portion of the development, are angry about possibly being excluded from P.S. 234.
“Tribeca is our neighborhood,” said Ilya Mazur, who lives at 89 Murray and has a 2-year-old son. “A lot of us can see [P.S. 234] from our windows. We can hear the school. This breaks the neighborhood for us.”
Mazur said that unlike the families in the adjacent luxury condos at 101 Warren St., families at 89 Murray cannot afford a nanny to help make the trek over to the Spruce Street School every day if they can’t go to 234. Mazur said the renters and condo owners live in the same complex and share the same courtyard, so they should not go to separate schools.
The project’s developer, Edward Minskoff, received $15 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in 2005 to build 77 affordable units at 89 Murray as part of the market redevelopment..
Mazur spoke at a Community Education Council meeting Wednesday night, where the city presented two options for zoning Downtown’s schools for next fall. The idea is to create four zones, one for each school, with kindergarteners guaranteed a seat in their zoned school. The zones will be in place for at least one year and are not intended to be permanent.
“It is probably impossible to come up with zone lines that make everyone happy,” said Elizabeth Rose, director of portfolio planning at the Dept. of Education. “I’m here to listen to your reactions.”
Rose said the zones were primarily based on the distribution of kindergarten and first-grade students this year. A D.O.E. spokesperson later said in an e-mail that the location of affordable housing units did not factor into the proposals.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, Rose spoke to a packed room that filled with anticipation as she passed around maps of Lower Manhattan showing the two zoning options. Parents immediately bent over the maps, whispering to each other and pointing out which blocks were included or excluded.
Mazur and many other southwest Tribeca families are objecting to Option 1, left, which draws a short, wide zone for P.S. 234 (highlighted in green in the maps) that would exclude 89 Murray St. In that option, P.S. 234 would take students in Tribeca all the way from West St. to Lafayette St., but the zone would only go down to Warren St. (west of Church St.) and Chambers St. (east of Church St.).
In Option 2, P.S. 234 would take students from a narrower slice of Tribeca, from West St. to Church St., but the zone would go all the way down to Liberty St., including 89 Murray and the rest of southwest Tribeca. Rose said the advantage of Option 2 is that it includes more of what is typically considered Tribeca, but the disadvantage is that it will give some children in the farther reaches of the zones a longer walk to school.
The zone for the Spruce Street School (P.S. 397, blue), depends on the P.S. 234 zone. Spruce will cover the Seaport, parts of the Financial District and the Civic Center, and either southwest Tribeca (Option 1) or northeast Tribeca (Option 2).
Both options zone northern Battery Park City (down to Albany St.) for P.S. 89 (red) and southern B.P.C. (below Albany St.) and the southern Financial District (below Liberty St.) for P.S. 276 (purple).
Wednesday night was the first time the city showed the two maps to the District 2 C.E.C. and local parents (Downtown Express added color to make them clearer). The C.E.C. has 45 days to give input on the plans and will hold at least two public hearings in Lower Manhattan, said Shino Tanikawa, chairperson of the C.E.C.'s zoning committee. Parents can also e-mail their feedback to the C.E.C. at D2zoning@gmail.com.
Registration for kindergarten Downtown will take place between Feb.1 and March 12. Rose hopes to have a zoning plan in place by the end of December.
Look for more coverage and reactions to the school plans in next week’s hard copy of Downtown Express. Read our 2006 article about 101 Warren St.’s plans to open an plaza terrace just for the condo owners.