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.
As 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).
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.”
“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.