Volume 81, Number 8 | July 21- 27, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

C.E.C. mulls rezoning, new schools at Foundling, 15th

By Albert Amateau

In the wake of longstanding complaints about a lack of school space, the Department of Education plans to open new classroom capacity in Manhattan District 2 over the next few years and rezone the catchment area for the two Greenwich Village elementary schools in the coming year.

But much of the new space would accommodate existing programs currently being “incubated” in temporary locations. And District 2 Community Education Council members say they fear the projected new classroom space won’t relieve the overcrowding and wait-list confusion in district schools.

Elizabeth Rose, in charge of the department’s Division of Portfolio Planning in District 2, told the C.E.C. on July 13 that the proposed rezoning of P.S. 41, on W. 11th St. at Sixth Ave., and P.S. 3, at Hudson and Grove Sts., would be the council’s main task this year.

Indeed, elementary school catchment zoning is about the only power remaining for the parent-elected councils.

The alternatives for District 2 are separate zones for P.S. 41 and P.S. 3, or a single Greenwich Village elementary school zone, Rose said.

“The advantage to separate zones is clarity about where parents can send their children” she said. “The disadvantage is a serious decline in choice.” How the zoning will affect class size in the two Village schools will be a primary concern for the District 2 C.E.C. in the 2011-’12 school year.

“There is no guarantee that the rezoning would eliminate wait lists, but we have lots of new capacity in the district,” Rose said.

But Eric Goldberg, a newly elected C.E.C. member, said D.O.E. has been underestimating the enrollment in the district, which includes Lower Manhattan, the Village, Chelsea, Clinton and the Upper East Side.

“We’ve been seeing more and more wait lists,” added C.E.C. member Michael Markowitz.

Ann Kjellberg, a Village school activist, recalled that last year the department predicted the district’s overall enrollment would go down.

“Instead, it went up,” she said.

Rose told the council that the Spruce St. School would move permanently from its “incubator” location at 51 Chambers St. to 12 Spruce St. on the ground floor of the new Frank Gehry-designed high-rise in September 2012.

Also in Lower Manhattan, new elementary school space at the Peck Slip post office building at Water St. is slated to come online in September 2015.

In addition, a 630-seat, K-to-8 or a 6-to-8 middle school is expected to open in 2013 in property that developer Sheldon Solow sold to the School Construction Authority at First Ave. and E. 35th St.

The 563-seat, pre-K-to-fifth-grade school proposed for the first six floors of the Foundling Hospital on Sixth Ave. and W. 17th St. is still scheduled to open in September 2014, Rose said.

The Foundling space is guaranteed by Rudin Management, the designated redeveloper of the now-shuttered St. Vincent’s Hospital campus.

“Pediatric nursing is relocating from Foundling to a new facility in Yonkers,” said John Gilbert, Rudin executive V.P. “The School Construction Authority will take over and build the school.”

Another project, for about 300 middle school students and between 500 and 600 high school students, is scheduled for 10 E. 15th St. The building could become the permanent home of the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, a middle school that until last year shared a W. 21st St. building with P.S. 11.

Writers and Artists now is in the former St. Michael’s Academy, on W. 33rd St. between Ninth and 10th Aves. St. Michael’s is on lease for seven years from the Catholic Archdiocese.

Although there are signs at the existing building at 10 E. 15th St. that a school will be built there, the School Construction Authority has not yet issued plans.

“They are still in design,” said Rose, adding there is not a projected opening date yet.

But residents of The Victoria, at 7 E. 14th St., said they were anxious about the impact of a school adjacent to the rear of their residential building.

“Will students be able to look into our bedrooms?” asked Charlie Zalben.

Marcia Weil, another resident, said she was concerned about the school’s impact on quality of life in Union Square Park, a half-block from the proposed school.

“We already have students from Washington Irving High School [between E. 16th and 17th Sts. on Irving Place],” Weil said. “We risk being inundated by kids coming from outside the district. There is more crime in Union Square Park, and we have a methadone clinic in the area.”

Rose said the education program at 10 E. 15th St. has not been determined but that the department is not likely to put a grades-6-to-12 combined middle school/high school on the site.

However, Liz Craig, mother of a Writers and Artists student, said parents are anxious about a school building population with more than 500 high school students and about 300 middle school students.

“We would like the department to consider a school that includes grades 6 to 12,” Craig said.

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