rezoning hearing
A parent speaks at Wednesday night’s school rezoning meeting.

More than 50 people spoke at a public hearing on Wednesday night over a contentious plan to rezone several schools at the southern end of the Upper West Side. Nearly all of the comments criticized the Department of Education’s proposal, which would shrink the zone for PS 199 on 70th street and West End Avenue, one of the city’s most sought-after elementary schools. Several people also said they felt the process was rushed, as the school board is expected to make its decision next month and the plan was only presented last week.

We outlined the plan in detail in a previous article. In short, it would remove 11 square blocks from the 199 zone, while expanding the zone for PS 452 on 77th street and creating a new shared zone for PS 191 on 61st street and a new school called PS 342 that’s under construction now. The map below shows the proposed district lines, outlined in black, on top of the old ones, which are designated using different colors — 452 is yellow, 191 is purple, and 199 is blue.

zone map3

The plan is designed to alleviate overcrowding at 199, and to increase diversity at the schools. While most students at 199 are white, 73% of students at 191 are minorities.

The Upper West Side’s version of a school board, called CEC3, is set to vote on the proposal on November 19, and it’s still not clear whether they support it. There are more meetings coming up, including a hearing on Saturday, October 17 at noon at the PS 191 auditorium, 210 West 61st street. The CEC3 calendar is here.

At Wednesday’s hearing, held at the Joan of Arc complex on West 93rd street, several people whose children would now be excluded from PS 199 spoke out. Dozens of them were from one coop building located at 303 West 66th street, known as Lincoln Guild. They said that their building had historical ties to PS 199, as it was initially built to house teachers, and that the building was excluded even though it’s in the same superblock with the Lincoln Towers buildings that would remain in the 199 zone. “You’re drawing an arbitrary line across this solid block,” said one resident.

Another woman whose building had been zoned out of 199 said she didn’t think the process was transparent.

“The fact that I have so many questions is just calling out red alarms that there’s no transparency to the community and this process is extremely rushed.”

Some parents were upset that the Trump buildings along the Hudson river would remain zoned for 199 while older buildings near the school would be zoned out — one man even raised a conspiracy theory that the city had made a deal with Trump or the other developers of those buildings. “The Trump buildings should not be given preference to kick everyone out of the 199 zone,” said one parent.

One resident of 303 West 66th street even said he had researched the selling prices of apartments in the Trump buildings and noted that they are much higher than those at his building (though, to be fair, 303 ain’t exactly cheap either). Another speaker who lives at 165 West 66th street, which was also removed from the 199 zone, warned that “you are going to affect the resale price of any family sized apartments in our coop building.”

And parents from the Anderson School, which shares a building with PS 452, said that they’re going to now have more overcrowding too. One father said his son already has to eat lunch before 11 a.m. every day. “My son has not eaten a single meal since he started first grade.”

“Shame on you and shame on the entire organization. That overcrowding is forcing kids to be unhealthy.”

Some parents who had expected to send their kids to 199 expressed anxiety about sending their kids to 191, which was designated this year as a “persistently dangerous school” and has lower test scores than 199 and the city average. The school board and top Department of Education officials have asserted that the designation was an error, but have not released data to explain their assertion.

Lauren Keville, the principal from 191, spoke out about the designation, saying there were “data issues” that resulted in errors. “The fact that we’re on that list is heartbreaking to for our kids,” she said. “It’s an incredible place and our kids are amazing and doing great work.”

She said several city officials had come to 191 since the designation, and every one of them had indicated that the school shouldn’t be on a “dangerous” list and will likely be take off within a year.

Council member Helen Rosenthal has added an extra $100,000 to PS 191’s budget for a full-time social worker — “I’m putting money into that school that I’m not putting into any other school,” she noted. PS 191, which is also known as the Museum Magnet School, has partnered with several cultural institutions, including the Lincoln Center Institute — to offer specialized programs.

stacie lorraineTwo teachers from the school also spoke up. Stacie Lorraine (pictured at right), a fifth grade teacher who attended the meeting, also sends her kids to PS 191. She urged parents to keep an open mind about the school.

“Our school is a supportive, loving and safe environment,” she said, noting that past students “make a point of coming back to share their successes. You cant measure that kind of success in test scores.”

She touted the school’s emphasis on “project-based learning.”

“I really encourage you to come and see for yourselves. Dispel the myths and, quite honestly, please dispel your own prejudices because they’re simply unfounded.”

While some parents said they’re open to learning more, they also said that the Department of Education needed to explain better why the school shouldn’t be rated dangerous. The DOE has been releasing only a limited amount of data so far, and it could still be several weeks before the department releases more. “We know the report said there are [dangerous] incidents,” said one father. “If people just say those incidents are not accurate, that’s not persuasive.”

Although the principal and teachers from 191 showed up, few parents spoke out for 191. The audience was made up largely of white and Asian parents. School board officials said they posted fliers around the Amsterdam Houses projects, where many kids who go to 191 live. But teachers at 191 said they didn’t see very much outreach to parents at the school. Parents from 191 may be waiting for the next hearing, which will be held at 191 itself. Their voices are also critical to making sure the community is involved, DOE and CEC3 officials have said.

Several people at the meeting expressed support for a “superzone” that would include PS 199, PS 191 and the under-construction PS 342. Noah Gotbaum, a member of CEC3 has backed this idea as being more equitable, and more likely to result in truly diverse schools where all parents have a stake in lifting up the students. But Sarah Turchin, the director of planning for Manhattan and Queens at the Department of Education, cautioned that the superzone could force students who live right next to one school to go 10 blocks to another school instead, because shared zones don’t give students priority based on proximity.

Correction: This article initially referenced a parent from PS 9 complaining about the time of his son’s lunch. We meant the Anderson School. The article has been fixed.

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 46 comments | permalink
    1. Mike says:

      Thank you for covering this story. Yes, the public response was a resounding “No” to the proposal. As one person commented, not one person among the 50+ speakers came up and said “hey, this is a great plan!” Hopefully the people’s views matter and the DOE and CEC put this proposal in the trash and begin working on a fair, long-term solution.

      • Parent says:

        For all of you who are about to get zoned out – you better propose an alternate plan. Just saying “no don’t do it” or “do it to anyone else’s building but mine” isn’t going to work. The DOE successfully shrinks zones all the time.

        Since the CEC3 is headed up by a parent at 199 and the major 199 PTA leadership players remain in the zone – you are fighting an uphill battle. They just want a quick and easy fix that means 199 will never have to be integrated.

        If the argument is about property values – guess what, you lose. The current 191 parents aren’t going to show up to help you and the people with the power who are not affected actually have their property value go up.

        You better recognize that you are getting zoned out and do what you can to fight for an improved situation under those circumstances. Your best chance is to demand that they create a plan that really gives 191 the leverage they need to get parents to support the school.

        Their current plan is to open 342 with a Kindergarten and then add one grade each year. So the new building will be EMPTY FOR YEARS!!! Why not do what they did in Park Slope 133 – and move the k-5 of 191 into the new building so newly zoned parents get more interested in the school?

        Then build 342 from the bottom up in the older building. Then both schools have something exciting going for them (new facility or new beginnings). Everybody wins.

        You cannot pit the brand new school with the brand new staff opening from the bottom up (very exciting!) against a struggling school and think it isn’t going to be a disaster. In fact the population of 191 might shrink as people who were planning on going to 191 will go to 342 instead.

        Zoned out parents – you need to mobilize with 191 to get the most you can out of the DOE. If you do not work together, it will be more of the same.

        • Mike says:

          Yeah, the zoned out parents made A LOT of alternative proposals including super zone; alternative zoning lines that were more fair by proximity, for income parity, or for historical connections to 199; new programs for 191 that will naturally bring more families in such as dual language or at least Mandarin; shifting zone wide offerings to 191. Other ideas had also been submitted by form or email. The response to all these suggestion is that they “are being considered” though other than the super zone which is just dismissed for absurd reasons (Sarah’s comment that some MAY have to walk further is offensive to those of us just across from 199 on Amsterdam that now HAVE to walk further) they seem to be generally ignored and the proposal hasn’t changed. The article also brushes over the reasons why parents say the rezoning should wait until later: (1) 342’s opening perhaps just next year according to Rosenthal would smooth the rezoning process; (2) 191’s persistently dangerous label needs to be removed o/w all this is moot; and (3) we should have a more thoughtful discussion of zoning goals we want, such as income parity, and have deeper analysis than superficial diversity numbers like white v. non-white.

          • Mike says:

            For clarity, Rosenthal said 342 may open in 2017. With 191’s “persistently dangerous” label pending well into next year at least, it seems much more sensible to wait until 2017 or 2018 to rezone as any change before then will just result in a temporary anomaly, like 4 K classes at 191 that will drop back to 2-3 the following year with 342.

          • West of Broadway says:

            I also like the Super Zone idea – because it provides for a better mix of students throughout the zone. Plus, all three schools would have increased financial resources.

            Does everyone realize that there are only about 35 kids per grade at 191 to be shared among 3 schools? Some of the elites at 199 are acting like their school is going to be invaded. If you all are so intent on sheltering your delicate children, move back to suburbs or privates please!

    2. Brandon says:

      I have been following this story but hadn’t realized that 303 W 66th was cut out of 199. If the doe is comfortable drawing zone lines not on streets let’s do all out. Draw a line north to south from 70th to 60th dissecting both Lincoln Towers and the Amsterdam Houses. One side goes to 199 the other to 191. This will divide the economic and racial groups most fairly.

      • dannyboy says:

        This quote: “Another speaker who lives at 165 West 66th street, which was also removed from the 199 zone, warned that “you are going to affect the resale price of any family sized apartments in our coop building.” shocked me.

        It implies that children and their education are being used as pawns in a real estate game.

        • East of Amsterdam says:

          Yes, resale value is an issue for developers (Trump) and homeowners, but the real concern of everyone other than this one speaker (who was elderly and may be counting on resale value for retirement) was their child’s education and having a real discussion about how to improve all D3 schools, not just the increasingly exclusive 199 school that will just become wealthier as only rich families will be able to afford the increased real estate prices of Trump et al. Sad.

    3. Greg says:

      FYI, PS 9 doesn’t share a building with PS 452. PS 9 is at 100 W 84th St (shared with The Center School), while PS 452 is at 100 W 77th St (shared with The Anderson School and The Computer School).

    4. Sherman says:

      My kid is at PS 199 and will continue to be zoned @ PS 199 if this plan passes.

      What I find fascinating about this whole affair is that all the lefty politicians – Helen Rosenthal, Linda Rosenthal, Brad Hoylman, Scott Stringer, et al – have all been stone silent about the school rezoning plans.

      They know that speaking out in favor of sending rich white kids to a school full of poor minority project kids – or bringing poor minority project kids to a school full of rich white kids – is wildly unpopular politically. They know they will get crushed when they run for reelection because white parents will be furious.

      For all of the UWS’s supposed “progressive” values this sordid school zone affair just proves that liberals are terrible hypocrites.

      • senyc says:

        Who ever said that the (new, suburban) UWS is liberal? HAH!!

      • lS says:

        It is true that for decades, particularly 1960s-1990s, the UWS was known for its intellectualism and progressiveness (residents and elected officials) especially compared to the more affluent and conservative Upper East Side.
        But NYC and UWS have changed, the demographics have changed. The UWS can no longer be characterized as particularly unique or progressive.
        Per senyc’s comment, newer residents, suburban-raised and wealthier, are not necessarily “liberal” or “progressive.”

    5. ConspiracyNut says:

      I realize this comment will make me sound like a conspiracy nut. The way the principal at PS 191 wasn’t told that her “zero tolerance” approach to incidents would result in the persistently dangerous label along with her being counseled not to fight it always struck me as odd. Now we’re being told there will be a big, shiny new building for PS 342 that will remain mostly empty for years while we fill it from K up. Add to this that the DOE wanted to knock down PS 191 and allow a developer to build new condos on the site with a school in the base. Maybe the DOE wants the rich white parents to find a different school. When PS 342 opens they transfer all the 191 kids there leaving 191 empty and available to be sold to the highest bidder. Eventually — in 10 years or so — the neighborhood would be in a better spot with 2 new schools but getting there will be painful.

    6. East of Amsterdam says:

      The narrative that zoned out parents are attacking 191’s teachers and students is off, at least for many. I and many of the speakers on Wednesday genuinely believe that the current teachers and parents of 191 are working hard and love the school. The problem is 191 just doesn’t have the same opportunity for success as 199, mainly because they don’t have as many wealthy families that can buy a better school through PTA donations like 199 and it doesn’t have the foundation 199 has for success. I think 191 could improve, but this proposal is going to stunt that potential as it doesn’t address a better balance btw 191 & 199 and many parents are just not persuaded it is on par with other options so they won’t go, further undermining 191’s reputation. I think this proposal also hurts 199 as it doesn’t address its appallingly low number of black and Hispanic students. The added diversity that the DOE and this article repeats is a mirage – the actual student population still be the exact same with white & Asian siblings continuing and future wealthy families paying to get into the even more exclusive zone.

      • Stumped says:

        I agree. Shrinking the zone does not add any minorities that are non-White or non-Asian. All it does is increase the Asian population relative to the White population (because many live in the towers West of Broadway).

      • West of Broadway says:

        What would education at 199 look like without the $750k that the PTA brings in ever year? The PTA pays for nearly all of the school supplies and many of the assistant and special area teachers. Many owners on the UWS pay relatively low taxes (as opposed to the suburbs) – and then then give substantially to the school (also a tax break).

    7. Henry Fein says:

      Make that entire area a lottery zone. Doesn’t matter what you street, economic background, or racial background, you have the same shot as everybody with in that area to get into 199 or 452. People complain about the distance to commute to a school, but get real, the UWS is walkable and commutable. Kids in the suburbs have to walk a lot farther to get to school than any kid on the UWS.

      • Concerned Neighbor says:

        Henry Fein, The Superzone is fair but they don’t seem to be considering it. As the article states “. But Sarah Turchin, the director of planning for Manhattan and Queens at the Department of Education, cautioned that the superzone could force students who live right next to one school to go 10 blocks to another school instead, because shared zones don’t give students priority based on proximity.” Nevermind that the proposal as it stands will have kids living just east of Amsterdam on 68th not walking to 70th and 1/2 block west but rather down to 60th and WEA when the new school is built. There’s just no logic here.

    8. Joe must go says:

      When will people open their eyes to the disgraceful abode of power wielded by Joe. You all need to understand that Joes only motivation is the preserve his property value (he resides in the unrezoned portion of Lincoln towers) as well as preserve the status quo at 199 for his two daughters. Once you understand that – all his decisions become crystal clear. His outrage at the 192 violence reports? Because his nightmare is all those students requesting a transfer to 199. His scalpel like redrawing of the zone? To preserve his particularly property at the expense of his less influential neighbors. Shame on you joe. And shame on all the elected who are fully aware of this awful conflict of interest but yet turn a blind eye to his manipulation of the entire zone for his personal benefit. Shame shame shame on you all.

      • JoeWho says:

        Joe Who?

      • Mad as Hell says:

        Joe Fiordaliso is a renter. On Streeteasy the person who is listed as the owner of the apartment is not him. Now renters benefit when their building is zoned out, right? There will be less demand for the building and the rental rate will dip or hold. See the Gerrymandered building (it is a triangle) at Amsterdam and 68th? Yeah, that was a big f*ck you to his landlord.

    9. UWS parent says:

      If any area should be rezoned out of 199 it should be the Trump Towers. It is my understanding a school was supposed to be built when the towers went up, but the City let him off. Furthermore, I know several families from my daughter’s preschool who rented an apartment in Trump Towers for just a month or two to register their child, then moved back to 98th and 99th street to their co-ops. They are gaming the system that will shut out long-time residents. When we moved here three years ago, the constant turmoil at the school turned us off from the area. In the suburbs, schools are built with each development, and some planning and forecasting is achieved by the DOE…the NYC DOE they have failed the children of these neighborhoods.

    10. HELEN MURPHY says:

      I find it a form of dictatorship, parents should be able to send their kids where ever they want. who says its a free country it could of fooled me

      • UWS mom says:

        Helen Murphy, parents can’t just send their kids wherever they want. There are physical limitations. PS 199 can only hold so many kids. I don’t know what that number is. With more transparency into how many classrooms, kids per class, and specialty rooms there are in each of these school as well as some numbers about how many family sized apartments in the neighborhood buildings we could all understand the reasons they need to make these zone changes. The DOE must have this data. If not, how are they deciding where to draw the new zone lines? Either they have done some analysis or the commenters who think it’s based on political favors are probably right.

        • Talking to a wall says:

          Yes, more transparency in the numbers, particularly the breakdown of estimated attending students (rather than the theoretical zoned population) would help a lot and has been requested numerous times but ignored. As described in the committee meetings – but not to the public – the DOE’s analysis was very simplistic: it looked at last year’s zoned K populations by blocks and then created lines based on making sure no one had to travel more than a half mile while arbitrarily excluding a few blocks from the analysis like splitting the main Lincoln Towers block. The analysis did not consider how close families are to a school, 342’s imminent opening for proximity analysis, or newly opened or opening buildings. More significantly, the analysis did not consider income levels, increasing diversity balance among specific minority groups, the impact sibling policies would have on zoned lines, or the predictable change shift of families into the redrawn 199 zone. This is really just a quick solution to the long waitlist for a couple of years and kicking the problem to 191 and the future when 199 becomes overcrowded again. A long-term fix would require a deeper analysis, but the DOE and CEC are really only interested in not having to deal with waitlist tin the short-term and, for some, protecting 199’s borders.

          • Anin says:

            The apartments on CPW from 66th to 68th look to buy more than 1/2 mile from 191 and would be entitlement d to a school bus (but none of them will enroll so the point is moot) while WEA and the same cross streets would be under the 1/2 mile to 191 and even closer to the new school.

    11. helen murphy says:

      my idea for the million dollars is this, to put camera over each bldg. in nyc all five boroughs. it would make criminals think first before they do

    12. Pedestrian says:

      The idea that a city council member can treat taxpayer money as his or her won as in “I’m putting money in that school..” Is disturbing to say the least.

      Schools and students are again being treated as if humans are not involved and that changes in boundaries are irrelevant the important people. Transparency and fairness are clearly irrelevant to this administration but then we knew that. Perhaps the mayor should spend a bit more time in NYC but then city government is boring and hard work while pretending to be a progressive national mover and shaker is much more fun!

    13. Julie says:

      This has been an incredibly depressing introduction to the NY school system. Time to move to the burbs or explore charter schools. At least the charter schools are transparent about trying to make money; I’d rather that than a non-transparent, non-responsive government.

      • Conspiracy Theorist says:

        Maybe that is what they hope. Guess who lobbies for the charters? See comments above. Both of their firms.