Volume 22, Number 32 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 18 - 24, 2009
One member of the District 2 Community Education Council, Michael Markowitz, has suggested this school zoning option as a possibility to consider with the other two proposals, although he is not backing any option yet. Eric Greenleaf, a Financial District parent and a leader in the effort to get more schools Downtown, right, has just been named to the council and said he’d try to find the fairest zoning option. Markowitz said Greenleaf is “somebody who clearly knows a lot about the No. 1 headache on our plate right now.”
School panel member floats new option
By Julie Shapiro
North Tribeca parents slammed a new school zoning proposal this week that would send their children to P.S. 89.
Until now, north Tribeca parents have mostly kept quiet on school zoning, since both of the city’s proposed options for Downtown’s four schools kept north Tribeca zoned for P.S. 234. But after many parents in other parts of Tribeca and Lower Manhattan panned the city’s two options, Michael Markowitz, a member of the District 2 Community Education Council, drafted a third possibility.
Called “Option 3,” the proposal would send children in northern Tribeca to P.S. 89 in Battery Park City, rather than to P.S. 234, which is closer.
“It makes absolutely no sense,” said Mary Hoeveler, who lives in north Tribeca and wants her young son to attend P.S. 234. “I can’t tell you how dismayed I am.”
Hoeveler and other north Tribeca parents turned out to Community Board 1’s monthly meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns, and they said they had gathered 300 petition signatures against Option 3. All the proposals are temporary, intended to be in place only for next fall.
|Downtown Express file photo by Jefferson Siegel
P.S. 89 is only a block away from P.S. 234 but it is a long avenue block and Tribeca children walking to the Battery Park City school would have to cross a six-lane highway to get there.
David Christensen, another north Tribeca parent, said he just toured P.S. 234 a few weeks ago and was excited about his son going there next fall. Christensen said he was concerned about his son making the long walk to south Tribeca and then crossing the highway. When he mentioned his concerns to the Community Education Council, they told him they would fight for a bus, Christensen said.
“I did not move to Tribeca to be bused to school,” Christensen said.
The C.E.C. will hold a hearing in early January on the three zoning options and will vote by the end of that month, Markowitz said. He unveiled Option 3 at a C.E.C. hearing last week and said he is not pushing for it to be adopted.
“At the end of the day, I might vote against it,” Markowitz said. “As radical as it is, it deserved to be talked through…. I just wanted to expand the conversation.”
In addition to sending kids from north Tribeca (roughly north of Laight St.) to P.S. 89, Option 3 makes a few other moves that are more popular. The plan would zone Gateway Plaza for P.S. 276, as parents there have requested, rather than P.S. 89, as the city proposed. The plan would also include more of southern and eastern Tribeca in P.S. 234, and it would include a piece of the eastern Financial District in the Spruce Street School — all changes that parents in those neighborhoods broadly support.
Option 3 is similar to a proposal floated last week by a group of Spruce Street parents, who want more of the Financial District to be included in their school.
When the C.E.C. makes a decision next month, they will have a new voice at the table: Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234 parent and professor at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business. Greenleaf has been active on school overcrowding for the past couple years and crunched numbers on Downtown birth rates to argue for new school seats. Until Borough President Scott Stringer appointed Greenleaf to the C.E.C. last week, the council did not have a representative from Lower Manhattan.
Greenleaf did not want to comment on the specific zoning plans the C.E.C. is considering, but he said he would try to balance fairness with safety and the convenience of getting children to school. The most important thing is that the new schools the community fought for do not become overcrowded, Greenleaf said.
Markowitz said he was glad Greenleaf had been appointed, since he is “somebody who clearly knows a lot about the No. 1 headache on our plate right now,” namely, school overcrowding. Markowitz hopes Greenleaf will apply his population projections to the other neighborhoods in District 2, from the Village to the Upper East Side.
As the school zoning discussion continues in Lower Manhattan, many parents are getting frustrated by the divisive debate, which sometimes appears to have left logic behind. North Tribeca parents are fighting south Tribeca parents over what is “really Tribeca.” Some parents say it is too dangerous for their children to cross Broadway, but then they propose options that require other children to cross West St.
“None of it makes sense,” said Hal Goldstein, who lives in north Tribeca and has a daughter in first grade at P.S. 234. “The process seems to be about who speaks loudest and who has the most voices.”
Instead, Goldstein said the lines should be based on population numbers, which have largely been missing from the discussions and proposals so far. Until then, Goldstein said, “People are just dividing up a map like it’s a pizza.”