Volume 22, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 11 - 17, 2009
A Community Board 1 committee has recommended this school zoning option for P.S. 234, 89, 276 and Spruce Street School. A group of Seaport parents have suggested a “wheel” adjustment (arrows) which would zone North Tribeca for P.S. 89 in Battery Park City, Gateway Plaza for 276 instead of 89, and the southeastern Financial District for Spruce instead of 276.
Spruce parents float idea to adjust school zones
By Julie Shapiro
Parents dissatisfied with the two school zoning options on the table for Lower Manhattan have drafted their own proposal.
“It started from wanting to keep the community we have intact,” said Learan Kahanov, co-chairperson of the Spruce Street School’s school leadership team.
Kahanov and other Spruce parents dislike the city’s proposals because they both zone the southern Financial District below Liberty St. for P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City. Spruce has many families this fall from the southern Financial District, especially east of Broadway, so that area should be included in Spruce’s zone, not 276’s, Kahanov said.
However, simply expanding the Spruce Street School’s zone would result in too many students at Spruce and too few students at 276, so the parents are suggesting additional changes, which essentially take the city’s proposed zoning lines and rotate them. First, the parents would move Gateway Plaza from P.S. 89’s zone into P.S. 276’s zone. Then, they would move northern Tribeca families from P.S. 234 into P.S. 89. Finally, they would move southern and eastern Tribeca families from Spruce into P.S. 234.
“That would be great,” said Joanne Fernando, who lives at Water and Pine Sts., and would be zoned for P.S. 276 under the city’s current plans. “I just assumed we would go to Spruce Street — it seems so logical to everyone down here.”
Fernando feels much more connected to the Seaport than to Battery Park City, and she said most of her daughter’s friends at Downtown Little School will be going to Spruce.
The city outlined its two zoning options last month and is gathering feedback from local parents and the District 2 Community Education Council. Will Havemann, D.O.E. spokesperson, said it would be premature to comment on the Spruce parents’ proposal.
“We are taking the community’s feedback very seriously and we are looking to see whether proposals like [the Spruce idea] would be feasible,” Havemann said.
Shino Tanikawa, co-chairperson of the C.E.C.’s zoning committee, said she and the other C.E.C. members would study the Spruce parents’ idea. The C.E.C. could make a zoning recommendation as soon as next week but will likely wait until the middle of January.
Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee weighed in on the zoning issue this week, voting unanimously for the city’s “vertical” option, number 2, which uses Church St. as the divider between P.S. 234 and the Spruce Street School. Option 1 excludes some buildings right near P.S. 234 and has generated more vocal opposition than 2.
Kahanov presented his new proposal to the committee, but they were hesitant because no one knows whether Kahanov’s zones would evenly distribute children among the four Downtown schools. However, the new zoning proposal has gained support from Gateway Plaza parents who were lobbying to go to P.S. 276 but were zoned for P.S. 89 under both of the city’s plans.
Diego Costa, a Gateway resident whose son starts kindergarten next fall, called the new proposal “awesome.” P.S. 276 is closer to Costa’s home, and he can see the school from his window. Costa also wants his son to go to 276 because it is new.
“I like new things,” Costa said, which is why he named his son Neo.
The new plan is also likely to be popular among southern and eastern Tribeca families who were zoned out of 234 in one or both of the city’s plans. Moving north Tribeca into P.S. 89 could open up enough room in P.S. 234 for all the families who live within a few blocks of the school, including those on Murray St., Church St., Greenwich St. and Broadway who have been complaining about not being included.
But the new proposal does not have universal support.
Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent, predicted that north Tribeca parents would not want to walk their children down past 234 and then cross West St. to get to P.S. 89. Not many North Tribeca parents have shown up to public meetings on school zoning, presumably because they assumed they would definitely be zoned for P.S. 234, as they are in both of the city’s options.
The new proposal also faces some opposition in the Financial District, among the very families that the Spruce parents most wanted to help. For example, while the Spruce Street School has some families from Hanover Square this year, not all Hanover residents want their children to go to Spruce. Some prefer P.S. 276 and don’t want to see any changes to the city’s original proposals.
Magda Gagliano, who has been living in Hanover Square since 1997, said she has only been to the Seaport a handful of times, while she frequently goes to Battery Park City.
“I do not feel any sense of community with the Seaport,” Gagliano said.
Gagliano wants her daughter to attend P.S. 276 next fall because of Principal Terri Ruyter’s “whole child” philosophy and the school’s environmental focus. But she said she would not fight whatever decision the city makes, since at least there will be enough school seats for every child, regardless of where exactly they are.
“We have to choose our battles,” Gagliano said.