Upper West Side Parents to de Blasio: Keep Lincoln Towers Together!

School community and local elected officials rally to urge NYC DOE to consider alternative school rezoning proposal
October 26, 2016

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), State Senator Brad Hoylman and parents and residents of the Lincoln Towers community rallied to urge the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to keep the Lincoln Towers school community together. The DOE will release “Scenario C” at the September 28th Community Education Council 3 meeting.

The DOE is considering a controversial school rezoning proposal for School District 3 (D3). The current scenarios would split the Lincoln Towers community between two school zones, with students from every building except 165 West End Avenue and 185 West End Avenue being zoned for the same school. The eight- building community of nearly 10,000 strong has anchored this Upper West Side neighborhood for nearly 50 years, and stands in unified opposition to any plan that would split their children among different school zones and fracture the community that they have cultivated for years.

“There are few developments that have helped to shape the Upper West Side more than Lincoln Towers,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Now, the DOE is proposing to tear this strong and historically tight-knit community apart by implementing an arbitrary rezoning plan without demonstrating its rationale. This current plan is not the only way to achieve the community’s shared goals, and we urge the DOE to work with us to devise a plan that maintains Lincoln Towers’ strong community bonds.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: "It defies logic and common sense to divide the Lincoln Towers community and sever its historic half-century partnership with PS 199 in order to reduce overcrowding by an average of six students a year. I implore the Department of Education to rethink this flawed plan."

According to the DOE, the rezoning of the southern portion of D3 is needed to address school overcrowding. Despite repeated warnings over the years from elected officials and parents alike, DOE’s inaction allowed PS 199 to become overcrowded. The school is currently at 141% of enrollment capacity, squeezing 903 students into a building meant for 640. This is after the school experienced two consecutive years of record-long kindergarten wait lists.

Though Lincoln Towers has a long community history and 185 and 165 West End Avenue contribute relatively few children (a maximum of 3-4 kindergarten age students per year) to the school zone, these buildings are mysteriously cut from it in the proposed maps. Curiously, new developments like 170 and 150 Amsterdam Avenue with unit sizes geared toward families with children and the not-yet-constructed 200 Amsterdam Avenue, which will be the tallest building on the Upper West Side with 55 stories, all were zoned into the district.

“We have lived in Lincoln Towers since 2009, it's rare to find a home in this city where you are so supported by your neighbors both young and old, the sense of community is what led us not only to plant our roots but also to expand our family here. After all of these years it is inconceivable that the Lincoln Towers community could be torn apart by this rezoning process. I sincerely hope that the Department of Education works with us to keep this community together,” said Elyse Reilly, new parent and 185 West End Avenue resident.

In addition to the overcrowding problems, the community hopes the rezoning will help achieve greater diversity in one of the most segregated school districts in the city. “All the available research makes clear that diversity improves educational and social outcomes for all students,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “This is a rezoning goal shared among all members of the community, and greater integration can be achieved without bifurcating the Lincoln Towers community.”

“Dividing two Lincoln Towers buildings from the rest of their immediate community by drawing a school zoning line through the middle of complex is unnecessarily disruptive to the children and families who will be affected,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “As the Department of Education moves forward with developing a school rezoning plan for the Upper West Side, I urge the DOE to keep Lincoln Towers together and to find a reasonable school zoning plan that achieves DOE’s goals without creating undue burdens on Lincoln Towers families.”

Despite repeated requests for the data upon which the proposed zone maps are based, such as historical kindergarten enrollment trends and school-aged population projections for the area, the DOE has refused to provide community members or elected officials with the information that has informed their decision-making and the proposed maps. In addition to a FOIL request made by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, other elected officials have not received a response to their inquiries requesting this and other information.

“The parents of the Lincoln Towers community simply want an opportunity to consider alternatives to the current proposed lines that keep their community together while reducing overcrowding and improving diversity,” concluded Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.