CITY TWEAKS SCHOOL REZONING MAPS; SOME DOUBT IT WILL MAKE UWS SCHOOLS MORE DIVERSE

theresa hammonds
CEC3 school board member Theresa Hammonds speaks about the proposals at Wednesday’s public meeting.

Parents had mixed — and mostly negative — reactions at a meeting Wednesday night to two city proposals to rezone Upper West Side elementary schools, with some saying that the plans would do little to truly desegregate district schools.

The city shifted one of the zoning lines — a block near PS 199 — to make sure the school’s enrollment numbers would match their projections. But the maps were otherwise unchanged from last week.

new zones 199As you can see in the image that we created at left, one block between 69th and 70th street from Freedom Place to Riverside Boulevard was moved from  the PS 199 district to the PS 191 district. The change is expected to affect about 10 kids, according to Sarah Turchin, director of planning at the Department of Education. The new full draft maps are at the bottom of this post.

The city is floating two proposals to rezone elementary schools, aiming to reduce overcrowding at popular schools while also adding some socioeconomic and racial diversity to schools whose student bodies have become increasingly white and well-off.

In both proposals, PS 191 on 61st Street would move into a new building a block West. In proposal A, a new school would be created at the former PS 191 location. In proposal B, PS 452 on 77th street would move into the former PS 191.

In both scenarios, the zoning changes would cascade, causing shifts in other districts. In Proposal B, those shifts would affect schools as far North as 116th Street, in order to set the right enrollment targets for each school.

The Department of Education also released stats about how the changes could affect the socioeconomic diversity of the different schools. The full proposal, with footnotes, is here (we mistakenly posted an older presentation previously).

demographics a plan

demographics b plan
Via DOE. Click to enlarge.

But some of the people who spoke out said the zoning shifts would do little to actually increase diversity, particularly if they don’t do more to engage students in the northern portion of the district.

“A district-wide solution is necessary,” said Lori Falchi, who is part of a group called D3 Equity in Education, which has examined solutions to bring more diversity to local schools. “At a moment when we have a crisis of racial justice we also need justice in our schools. We can tinker with the zone lines every couple years, or stand on the side of justice and invest in a district-wide process of controlled choice.”

Under controlled-choice, all schools in the district would be open to all kids from the district. The location of a child’s residence would be considered, but wouldn’t be the only deciding factor for their school placement, according to the Equity in Education group. “The difference to the current system would be that admission to a particular school would not depend on how much money you donate, how many times you visit or call the school, whom you know, or where you can afford to live. Instead, admission and access would be guided by a commitment to equity.”

Controlled choice has been discussed but not fully embraced by CEC3. In a recent article in Chalkbeat, CEC3 President Joe Fiordaliso said the community has not been open to it.

“The fact that those alternative ideas aren’t resonating isn’t my fault,” he said. “Maybe it’s because those ideas don’t make any sense or they’re so radical and unproven that they’re not accepted by the community.”

It’s increasingly clear that real estate is contributing heavily to the segregation issue.  New buildings and those under construction in the Southern end of the district are increasingly unaffordable to working or middle-class residents. Several of them — including a planned 51-story tower on 69th Street — are expected to have large, expensive apartments and have no requirement to build affordable units.

Other parents at the meeting were concerned that the zoning changes will send parents who live in different Lincoln Towers buildings in the high 60’s to different schools. Some would be zoned for PS 191, rather than 199, where Lincoln Towers resiudents have gone for decades. “Lincoln Towers and PS 199 have a very strong bond,” said one woman. “I ask the CEC and DOE, don’t split apart Lincoln Towers.”

Several other parents urged the CEC not to move PS 452, given the difficulties of traveling an additional 15 blocks and taking children out of their surrounding neighborhood. “We are more than just lines on a map. Please keep 452 in our community,” said one woman. Other 452 parents, however, were more supportive, and the school’s principal and teachers have also supported the plan to give them more room to grow.

The CEC3 zoning committee is taking August off, but will resume reviewing the plans in September with more public hearings and an expected vote in October or November. The maps and timeline are below, as is contact info for the DOE. Each can be enlarged with a click.

draft a rezoning
PROPOSAL A.

draft b rezoning
PROPOSAL B.

doe5

doe4

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 47 comments | permalink
    1. j says:

      According to this map… the new line is actually on Freedom Place between 69th Street and 70th Street…. not 70th and 71st. Freedom Place only runs from 66th-70th… so your explanation is actually not possible. I am also curious about how it effects 10 kids? It looks like the 200 Riverside Blvd building is being cut out of 199 and placed into 191. The entrance to that building is on Riverside Blvd… but the rear of the building is on Freedom Place. There are way more than 10 kids in that entire building.

      • West Sider says:

        Good catch, thanks. We’ve updated our explanation. They probably meant 10 Kindergartners.

    2. Jmoney says:

      I am wondering if having these style forums are really the best way to gauge support? It seems to me, having attended some similar meeting in the fall, they are mostly attended by a vocal “minority” (and I use that word very loosely; non-caucasians tend to get shouted down and even booed at these meetings) who may or may not be representative of the whole.

    3. UWSdaddy7 says:

      In the two “Zone Demographic Changes” slides included above, the footnotes are cutoff. Can you please repost with the footnotes? They are critical to this discussion. As several community members pointed out last night, the percentages provided in the presentation merely reflect free/reduced lunch eligibility status of ZONED kindergarten students. They DO NOT reflect or project the actual makeup of a given school. For example, it shows 191 currently at 51%, but the actual makeup is really much higher (something like 80+% according to a speaker last night). They claim that they are unable to project the actual makeup of a given school and so they provide information about zoned kindergarten students — I don’t buy it. That can absolutely be studied and estimated. It is irresponsible and deceptive to claim post re-zoning figures of 15-25% at 191 and 199 (and 452 under Scenario B). The figures will be much higher. That WSR missed the importance of the footnotes suggests to me that many people are missing this…

    4. Eddie says:

      The board did a surprisingly good job of trying to get more specific answers, but there are still so many questions left unanswered. There needs to be a buttoned up, comprehensive plan in place before it can be voted on. I feel like we are gradually moving closer to that point, but are still very far away. For instance, the woman from DOE said she had no idea what would be done with the extra rooms if 452 left its current building. A wise speaker pointed out the irony of the fact that one of the reasons for moving 452 out of that building is that it isn’t properly configured for younger children, yet one of the proposed uses is for pre-k (plus the fact that Anderson is in the building and also has elementary grades).

      Another hole in the current plan is that there seems to be no consideration of second order impact. As noted by a commenter above, the diversity stats based on students who live in the zone vs. those who actually attend the schools are very different. Similarly, one of the board members noted that many 452 parents might not want to move to the new location. The DOE rep said that they could ask to go to other schools but would be treated as out of zone, which means that these students likely would still end up in the new building because the most desirable schools in the area tend to have little or no space for out of zone students. Similarly, I don’t think she has taken into consideration how many students will stay behind at old schools due to grandfathering, both of current students and siblings who are not yet enrolled.

      I recognize that a change needs to be made. But rather than rushing through these plans that are not near completion, more thought should be put into this. I appreciate their effort to seek input and hope they are listening. My personal bias is for the top priority to be to keep kids close to home, and also to minimize the disruption to the schools that are already running well – a race to mediocrity helps very few people.

      • W67thSt says:

        I respectfully disagree that the plans were rushed. This has been in the works for over a year, and the plans that were rolled out appear to take into account the feedback from the failed process last year. For example: the old plans kept all of the Amsterdam Houses zoned to PS191, virtually guaranteeing that 191 would continue to have a high proportion of low-income kids, while the new plans split the Amsterdam Houses into three different zones, to promote diversity and alleviate the challenges associated with high concentrations of poverty.

        • Eddie says:

          You are correct that a lot of progress has been made. What I mean by rushed is that I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered and I think it would be very rushed to try to get them all answered and achieve an optimal solution in time for the chosen new plan to be effectively implemented for the 17/18 school year. There are too many open questions to be answered, and there need to be final answers on these while leaving parents enough time to digest them and react as necessary.

    5. dannyboy says:

      I support the objectives “to rezone elementary schools, aiming to reduce overcrowding at popular schools while also adding some socioeconomic and racial diversity to schools whose student bodies have become increasingly white and well-off.”

    6. Kate says:

      It’s incredible that a city build on a grid could create a convoluted mess of school zones like that.

      Why not just split the UWS into several horizontal chunks and make those the school zones?

      • W67thSt says:

        That’s what was done in the past, and it led to segregation. They’re trying to address the problem by splitting up the Amsterdam houses, which is why the zones look gerrymandered. A lot of thought went into the proposal beyond just drawing horizontal lines.

      • angeline says:

        The city has never had perfect planning of one school/X blocks and also the density of blocks change over time especially on the avenues.

        One of the criticisms of the current zoning is that NYCHA housing is disproportionately represented in some school zones. There are two ways (I can’t think of a 3rd) to change this.

        1) Rezoning that splits up NYCHA housing between different schools. Pros – you get some proximity but not ideal proximity between school and residence. Cons – you end up with weird jagged lines, you may walk past a closer school/schools to a school further away.
        2) Unzoning – change the admissions policy so that residence is decoupled from admissions. Admissions based on random lottery or lottery based on socio-economic/racial basis. Pros – money to buy/rent an apt no longer guarantees a particular school, maybe get schools perfectly aligned with diversity goals, Cons – assign parents to a school they don’t want, they won’t go.

        • Jane says:

          How would uncoupling residence from public school selection be fair?

          People work hard to buy homes in good school districts. Why should their kids have to suffer violent classmates and poor test scores in the name of PC culture?

          • dannyboy says:

            “People work hard to buy homes in good school districts.” – Jane

            But you don’t buy into a PUBLIC School.
            NY suburbs offer this service.

            • Eddie says:

              First of all, your constant snarkiness really is not appreciated.

              Secondly, families concerned with education certainly do factor schools into their home purchases (or rentals). When choosing our home, we actively studied the current zoning lines and researched each of the schools, and the quality of our zoned school was a huge factor in our decision – we settled on a smaller home as a tradeoff for a good school zone. We recognized there was a risk that lines could be re-drawn, but assumed it was minimal, and fortunately we will have little direct impact from these changes. I agree that it is not as concrete of a guarantee as when one moves to a suburb, knowing the specific school district, but these choices should be respected and the shifting should be minimal.

              I am always amazed to meet people with the means to choose from different locations who move into an apartment with a toddler then claim they were not aware it was in a bad school zone when it comes time to enroll in K a few years later. Information is widely available – do the research if education is important to you.

            • dannyboy says:

              Hey Eddie, I guess the truth gets you so set off that all you can do is name-call. Very immature, in my opinion.

              So now I’m going to Reply to your earlier Comment:

              “What I mean by rushed is that I think there are still a lot of questions to be answered and I think it would be very rushed to try to get them all answered and achieve an optimal solution in time for the chosen new plan to be effectively implemented for the 17/18 school year. There are too many open questions to be answered, and there need to be final answers on these while leaving parents enough time to digest them and react as necessary.”

              Quit your apparent stalling tactics. This Segregation has been going on as long as you have been involved in the schools.

              I got a lot more to say about your Comments, stay tuned.

            • dannyboy says:

              Hey Eddie, did you really write: “When choosing our home, we actively studied the current zoning lines and researched each of the schools, and the quality of our zoned school was a huge factor in our decision – we settled on a smaller home as a tradeoff for a good school zone. We recognized there was a risk that lines could be re-drawn, but assumed it was minimal, and fortunately we will have little direct impact from these changes. I agree that it is not as concrete of a guarantee as when one moves to a suburb, knowing the specific school district, but these choices should be respected and the shifting should be minimal.”?

              Youn want a guarantee for your money? Are you living in NYC with PUBLIC Schools, whose purpose includes providing children with exposure to other NYers? Don’t those children deserve an education? Why be that way?

            • dannyboy says:

              “I am always amazed to meet people with the means to choose from different locations who move into an apartment with a toddler then claim they were not aware it was in a bad school zone when it comes time to enroll in K a few years later.”

              Hey Eddie, some parent do want their children to mix with other children. Sorry you don’t.

            • Maurice says:

              Dannyboy,
              You are sounding a lot like Trump in your tone – you are really scary – you think you are the smartest person in the room. But since diversity and integration and equality are so important to you, why don’t you trade your UWS apartment with a family in a truly impoverished neighborhood and send your kids to school there and let their kids go to school here. Idealism is a wonderful thing until it is your kids futures in play.

            • dannyboy says:

              Mr Maurice,

              Start making sense and stop accusing everyone of being Donald Trump. I leave this as help.

              Also, my children were educated in diverse schools, and benefited from that. A second piece of help.

              But your third remark cannot be helped. Writing that “Idealism is a wonderful thing until it is your kids futures in play.” is, in itself, an incideous remark. To characterize our community’s need to INTEGRATE SCHOOLS as “Idealism” and further deinishing these efforts because “your kids futures in play” is disingenuous, in my opinion.

    7. Al says:

      Let’s assume the some families select their residence based on the associated school. If one or two schools are considered “better,” then there will be a gravitation of more mobile families to those schools’ districts. If that results in de-diversification, then the districts get gerrymandered. Guess what: the more mobile families can move again. So much for diversification.

      • UWSdaddy7 says:

        Agreed — it turns into whack-a-mole, which is highly disruptive to families and ultimately pointless and ineffective.

        • D3 mom says:

          Having worked as an educator in many different urban settings and as a parent, I’ve learned a great deal from those who are most different from me. I want that for my child.

          Remember Ruby Bridges? Robert Coles spoke with her as she was taunted viciously and wrote about her and children across our country. Two phrases he used come to mind with these debates: self-preserving anxiety and narcissistic entitlement. Those are detrimental to children, their schools, and communities.

          People from many backgrounds act out in wildly unpredictable ways. Look at the story of Ruby Bridges–that young girl’s dignity and compassion for those who she rose above–her story speaks volumes about the problems we encounter here.

    8. Huh? says:

      If anyone is interested in integration, then why not draw lines that will integrate the schools? The new map for 452 takes kids from an overwhelmingly white area and puts them in a school in a predominantly brown and black area. If integration means that kids have to see people of other colors on their way to school, it succeeds. If it means they have to go to school together and interact, then the new plan is failure. The new plan maintains the current and unacceptable level of racial segregation. Instead of the politicians, developers, and everyone else who has a personal or emotional stake in making sure our country stays segregated congratulating themselves for coming up with plans that they know promise integration but will actually will maintain the status quo, how about a plan that provides for kids of all colors, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, backgrounds, and economic classes to go to school together. Once the kids have to interact and realize we’re all human, maybe their parents can learn from them!

      • Angeline says:

        I have been going to community meetings for 8 years. Any rezoning that excludes a building from a desirable school always leads to accusations that the rezoning is unfair and/or does not achieve its desired effect. Understandably, people have moved to/stayed in a building for a school and who wants to have their life disrupted? Predictably, delays are asked for because maybe this change will bypass you but then inevitably the next year, new families will ask for the same delay. 8 years ago, the housing patterns predicted that there were too many units assigned to too few schools in parts of the UWS. That has not changed. Everyone says that there should be a better plan.

        Unfortunately, there is something seriously lacking in any alternative plan I’ve ever heard presented.

        1. Controlled choice – allow parents to apply to a school regardless of residence, then control the demographics at each school by only allowing x% of y type of family.

        2. Break schools up by grade, combine disparate schools into 1 and house, e.g., k-2 in one, etc.

        3. Just do straight line rezoning.

        • Christian says:

          Hi Angeline, the second option you listed (different buildings for different age groups) is fairly new to me. I only heard about it last week. What’s lacking in it? It seems to make a lot of sense to me but I’m probably overlooking something.

          • angeline says:

            Last year, a group of preK families from a building that was in that proposed rezoning (199->191) advocated that 199 and 191 be paired. PreK-2 in one building, and 3-5 in another.

            Pros – instant diversity, relieve overcrowding, no more good school vs. bad school.

            Cons – This scheme is called the “Princeton” plan and dates back from efforts in the the 60s to desegregate. Interestingly 199 and 191 were paired from the 60s-80s. Student flight caused 199’s enrollment to drop so precipitously that Principal Goldberg recruited kids from way out of zone to fill the seats. He succeeded. Prior to that, the schools were unpaired (he testified recently that pairing made educational continuity difficult). Many parents also testified that pairing (even 10 blocks apart) would make involvement difficult and complicate their logistics. Also the issue of why would new families choose this situation over moving somewhere else where they can get a K-5 in one location.

            There is not a lot of google-able research as to whether pairing is better or worse educationally speaking. The DOE still has a few paired schools (one recent in Brooklyn). Generally speaking, current administrators, the DOE and SLT members are not in favor of pairing.

    9. Rhys Ulerich says:

      Why is something approaching 2/3rd of 199’s zone getting shifted into a different zone? Why the slice aross 71st and bizarre T shape? Who is driving that asinine choice?Give 199 a rectangular region, whichever rectangular region you like. Give 191 the western bit below 199. Give 452 the eastern bit below 199. Will life all be equal? No. Will futzing around with these lines make life equal? No. There’s a point where pretending causes more turmoil than it prevents.

      • Angeline says:

        Our elected politicians from top to bottom are invested in the idea of diversity. They have the idea that this is the mandate they have been given. Speaker after speaker from the community say that they want diversity but also want to keep going to the same schools and have access to great schools. This is why we have been given this new rezoning scheme.

        If diversity is not your priority, then please attend a meeting and speak up.

        • Maurice says:

          If you show up at the meeting and say that diversity should not be a key concern, you will be shouted out of the room as a racist, even though many people believe this. I would bet that almost everyone living on the UWS wants diversity, it is just that some think that it should be given a much higher priority than others.

          • angeline says:

            There is a school of thought that if schools were balanced socio-economically and racially that this is almost sufficient in and of itself to make great schools.

            This fails to recognize parents’ concerns about academic achievement (whether measured or not at school). Parents worry that when almost everything seems to be given over to getting the right demographics that nothing else matters.

            • dannyboy says:

              “when almost everything seems to be given over to getting the right demographics that nothing else matters.”

              Nice one. Try that strawman out here, because it just isn’t the case.

            • Anon says:

              What about the concern for academic achievement the parents at ps 191 have? Surely those 5 year olds entering kindergarten deserve a decent education just like the 5 year olds lucky enough to have parents who can afford to live in the 199 zone do.

    10. UWS Dad says:

      Thanks West Side Rag! Your coverage of this issue has been really great, and a big help to affected parents such as myself.

    11. Christine E says:

      The DOE seems to be defining diversity only by income / free lunch. There is no guarantee of racial diversity. And no mention of addressing persistent overcrowding. We need more schools and more seats, not just shifting all these zones around.

      • angeline says:

        1) It’s hard to build programs to be racially diverse without potentially running into legal problems. In the Bloomberg era, I think there was some language inserted in admissions policies that stated that race was not to be considered. I can find it with a bit more googling – I think that clause was newly removed with DiB.

        2) We do have one new elementary school building in the area of overcrowding that is coming online. This is the impetus among others for this rezoning.

        3) Persistent overcrowding exists because triple whammy of the number of desirable schools has not risen substantially, there is a cohort of families who are able to move into areas with desirable schools, new construction.

    12. jor says:

      I believe DNA info stole your post/did not give you credit again.

    13. biffmeister says:

      Every parent should have the right to send their kids to the schools closest to their homes. The most important responsibility of public schools is to educate children in SAFE classrooms where children are not allowed to act like wild animals. Where there is zero tolerance for disrespecting teachers. Under the DeBlasio administration, most public schools are sinking further into the abyss of failure due to dumbing down policies and coddling kids because of political correctness.

      • Anon says:

        Why? Why is the closest publoc school a rigbt? It can’t even work because schools have limitted capacity. If they keep building new highrises closest to 199 the building simply can’t absorb all the kids.

    14. Anonymous says:

      Dannyboy, do you have children? What school are your children currently zoned for? What school will they be rezoned for with the new proposal? Your berating of anyone who you disagree with on what should be a public forum for citizens to voice their concerns make these relevant questions.

      • dannyboy says:

        Yes, I have 2 children, thanks for asking about them. Both were educated in WS Public Schools (I have provided this information in the past in my Comments on WSR).

        Their schooling began 30 years ago at River Park Nursery School (a fine, and decent place for children to attend). From there they went on to other schools on the UWS and Lincoln Square. My children were never isolated into Segregated Schools. These same schools are now Segregated.

        Now “Anonymous” (a suitable alias), when you write: “Your berating of anyone who you disagree with on what should be a public forum for citizens to voice their concerns make these relevant questions.” YOU JUST GIVE YOURSELF AWAY as someone who does not want any dissent to his point of view.

    15. Rich says:

      A couple of questions:

      Does anyone know whether a proposal has been discussed where neighborhood schools are maintained and children cross boundaries to achieve the diversity goal? The current 199 “gerrymandering” boundaries slashes neighborhoods.

      Are there any other school zones in Manhattan that have such a crazy configuration as the proposed PS 199 zone would have?

      Am I correct on de Blasio’s and school chancelor Farina’s positions, that both support diversity but do not want to force it upon parents?

      What do the families in PS 191 want? Are they for the current proposals? Has a charter school proposal been discussed to see if they can fix the unacceptably low PS 191 test results?

      Thanks for any answers that people can give!

    16. Matt Marttucci says:

      What do others feel about the fact that our council member Helen Rosenthal sends her kids to Private School? Is this the reason she has done little to speak out against these proposed changes? I really think she could care less what the families in her district and at PS452 are dealing with.

      • Anon says:

        Matt,

        Do you know the grades of Helen’s children? Did they ever attend public school? If you are correct, I have heard others mention this, yes, it seems very, very contradictory. How can she push her diversity views if she is not walking the walk? If you are correct, she is not supporting the public schools and has opted out by sending her kids to private schools.

      • Angeline says:

        Always interesting to debate how much skin someone should have in the game.

        One can argue that if you are not in the game that you are able to be impartial.

        One can also argue that if you are not in the game that you can’t possibly understand.