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September 18, 2009, Downtown Express

September 18, 2009, Downtown Express

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Published by: COMMUNITYMEDIA on Sep 23, 2009
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Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel 
Margaret Chin celebrated her City Council primary win with many supporters including husband Alan Tung, left,and their son Kevin.
Certainty is moreimportant than choice tomany Downtown parents,the Dept. of Educationdiscovered this summer.The D.O.E. spoke toparents after a confusingkindergarten admissionsseason in which the ruleskept changing and manyparents could not getinto the school closest totheir home. Based on thatexperience, most parentswant the city to createseparate zones for each of Lower Manhattan’s schools,with children guaranteed aseat in their zoned school,said John White, head of theD.O.E.’s Office of PortfolioDevelopment.“Parents are sayingthey want a neighborhoodschool rather than a choiceschool,” White said at aCommunity Board 1 Youthand Education Committeemeeting Tuesday night.The alternative tocreating separate zones foreach school would be tocreate one large zone forall of them, with parentsable to choose whicheverone they wanted. If morestudents wanted to attenda given school than theschool could fit, those wholived closest would havepriority.The Dept. of Educationis submitting both zoningalternatives to the District2 Community EducationCouncil, an elected groupof mostly parents, whichwill hammer out the detailsof a final plan by the end of 
Parents like 4 schoolzones, and cityseems to agree
Margaret Chin defeatedCouncilmember Alan Gerson in theDemocratic primary Tuesday nightmaking her the odds-on favorite tobecome the first Asian American torepresent Chinatown.This was Chin’s fourth bid forthe Council seat since 1991 but thefirst time she quit her job to devoteherself full time to running. Manyof her supporters who joined inthe celebration Tuesday night saidthey voted for her all four times,including in 2001 when she lost theopen seat to Gerson in a seven-wayrace. The district is overwhelminglyDemocratic and if she wins in thegeneral election in November as isexpected, she will also representBattery Park City, Tribeca, Sohoand Noho, the Financial District,the Seaport, and parts of the Villageand Lower East Side.On Tuesday night, a beamingChin greeted a rollicking, roaringcrowd of 100 at her victory partyat Golden Unicorn restaurant inChinatown and she could barelystop smiling long enough to speak.“We overcome so many obstacles,but the final result is victory,” shesaid.Chin took nearly 40 percent(4,541 votes) in a primary thatdrew 11,516 people to the polls,according to unofficial returns thatshould take about a week to certify.Gerson came in second with 3,520
Four’s the charm for Chinas she topples Gerson
Continued on
 page 3 
Continued on
 page 6 
SEPTEMBER 18 - 24, 2009
Downtown Express photo by J.B. Nicholas
Executive Lunch
Two presidents come Downtown
September 18 - 24, 2009
downtown express 
There probably was more Dutch spoken last Thursdaynight on Governors Island than the typical Americantourist hears in Amsterdam (although that’s not verymuch) for previews of the Pioneers Change and the NewIsland Festival arts eventsGuests, who included
Frank Heemskerk
, minister of foreign trade from the Netherlands,
Ferdinand Dorsman
,director of cultural affairs at the Dutch consulate, and
Paula Grant Berry
, a director of the National September11 Memorial and Museum and the Harbor District,sipped cosmopolitans, feasted on Dutch delicacies andtook in the art.It was one part of the many, many celebrations of 
Henry Hudson
’s grand voyage to Lower Manhattan andthe rest of the continent 400 years ago, so of course thewoman who runs the big man’s namesake river park,
Connie Fishman
, also took the ferry ride over.
Assembly Speaker
Shelly Silver
is not usually one tobe star-struck (in fact, he’s probably more accustomed toother people being star-struck by him), but he soundedthrilled on Monday when he told UnderCover about hisencounter with President
, who was in town to givea speech on the economy at Federal Hall.Before the speech, Obama met with Silver. When theyshook hands, Obama said, “Oh, good to see you again,”Silver recalled. “And I said, ‘You know, Mr. President, wespoke on the phone but I don’t think we’ve ever met.’”But it turned out that Obama had remembered the2004 Democratic Convention, when Silver introducedObama, then a freshman Illinois senator, to New York’sdelegation.Silver thought Obama was more likely to rememberhim as the one who bought 125 copies of the first editionof “The Audacity of Hope” and sent them to Chicago to beautographed. Obama complied, and Silver gave the booksout to all the members of the Assembly for Christmas thatyear. The books are now worth over $1,000 apiece oneBay, Silver said.Silver was also pleased that Obama mentioned himby name in his Federal Hall speech on Monday, since hesaid only three other people were mentioned: Mayor
, Treasury Secretary
Tim Geithner
and U.S.Rep.
Barney Frank
from Massachusetts.“It was interesting that he called out my name, especiallyas there were a lot of people that he skipped,” Silver said,smiling.
Battery Park City’s evangelical Mosaic ManhattanChurch has a new part-time pastor, after the church’sfinancial difficulties forced the full-time pastor to stepdown.Former Pastor
Gregg Farah
, 42, said the church nolonger had enough money to support a full-time leader,so he moved his family out to Long Island last monthand is now leading the Shelter Rock Church there.Farah lived in Battery Park City and his three childrenattended P.S. and I.S. 89, the school building that thechurch rented for Sunday services, a tie that causedsome controversy several years ago.The church’s new part-time pastor is
Ryan Holladay
,25, who lives in South Slope with his wife and 2-month-old daughter. Holladay has a master’s in divinity fromthe Union Theological Seminary and is in his secondyear of law school at New York University. He wants tomaintain the church’s focus on young families.As for the past issues related to the church’s homeat P.S./I.S. 89, Holladay said he would follow theagreement Farah struck with the school to not distributechurch materials at any school-related events.Farah hopes to return to lead Mosaic when financesimprove.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-15, 18 Seaport Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12  Mixed Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13Transit Sam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 
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downtown express 
September 18 - 24, 2009
Parents like four school zones
the year, after a series of public meetings. White expectsthe C.E.C. to create separate zones for each school ratherthan one larger zone, based on the parent input he hasreceived.The reason Lower Manhattan needs to be rezoned isthat two new elementary schools are opening to relieveovercrowding at the existing schools, P.S. 234 in Tribecaand P.S. 89 in Battery Park City. The two new schools,the Spruce Street School and P.S./I.S. 276, started theirkindergarten classes last week in Tweed Courthouseand will move into their final buildings once they arecomplete.If the C.E.C. follows the growing parent consensusto create four separate elementary zones, White saidthe zones would break out roughly as follows: P.S. 234would serve Tribeca, P.S. 89 would serve northern B.P.C.,P.S. 276 would serve southern B.P.C. and the FinancialDistrict south of Wall St., and the Spruce Street Schoolwould serve the Seaport and the Financial District northof Wall St. White acknowledged that P.S. 234 may not fit everyonein Tribeca, even if Tribeca is defined by Canal St.,Broadway, Chambers St. and the Hudson River.Drawing the line at Chambers St. would also mean thatfamilies who live across the street from P.S. 234 in the Whole Foods building would not be able to attend theschool. White presented enrollment statistics to C.B. 1 Tuesdaynight, showing how the newly opened kindergartenclasses are taking the burden off of P.S. 234 and P.S.89. Eventually, once 234 and 89’s overcrowded classesgraduate, the schools will return to their ideal capacities,with caps of 20 students in the younger grades and roomfor pre-K classes and cluster rooms for subjects likescience and art, White said. White’s prediction relies on Downtown’s kindergartenpopulation remaining roughly where it is today. But parentactivists say Downtown’s baby boom is still underway,and another 1,000 elementary seats could be needed evenafter the two new schools open. Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234parent, has pointed to Downtown’s growing birth rateand new residential construction as warning signs of anovercrowding problem to come.However, White said Tuesday that Greenleaf’spredictions for this fall did not come true, and Downtownactually saw slightly fewer kindergarteners this year thanlast year, even though more children were born in 2004than in 2003 and Greenleaf predicted that the kindergartenpopulation would increase this year.Greenleaf said many families left New York becauseof the recession, and that is probably why the numbersdropped a bit this fall.But looking further ahead, Downtown’s births havecontinued to balloon, with 824 children born in 2007compared to 616 born in 2004, Greenleaf said. Unless60 percent of those 2007 children move away or attendprivate school, and future years of children do the same,Downtown will have another crowding problem on itshands by 2014, Greenleaf said.Denise Cordivano, director of the Battery Park CityDay Nursery, said she is also seeing dramatic growth. Thisyear she has 38 pre-K students, up from only 24 last year.And more of her students are attending public schoolthan ever before — last year, 100 percent of the nurseryschool’s graduates went to public school, the first time inher 13 years there that that happened.Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent, exhorted White and thecity to plan ahead so Downtown doesn’t have to scramblefor temporary overcrowding solutions, as they have inrecent years.“Our goal is just to not be here again,” Joyce said.“We need to know that this is going to be addressed inadvance.”At Tuesday’s meeting, White also gave details on plansfor middle school seats at the two new schools. The sixthgrade at P.S./I.S. 276 will open next fall, and students livingin southern B.P.C. and the southern Financial District willlikely receive admissions preference. The Spruce StreetSchool’s sixth grade will not start until 2011, because itis uncertain whether the school’s building will be ready intime for next September, White said. White said the city recognizes that more elementaryseats are needed somewhere in District 2, which stretchesfrom Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side, but the cityneeds to examine more data before deciding on locations.District 2’s Community Education Council will holda working meeting on school zoning Thurs., Sept. 17 at6:30 p.m. at 333 Seventh Ave. between 28th and 29th Sts.on the seventh floor.
The city agreed this week to fix up amuddy expanse outside Tweed Courthouseso children at the two elementary schoolsthere will have a safer place to play.“Right now, the kids are playing ondirt,” said Nancy Harris, principal of theSpruce Street School.Spruce and P.S. 276 both openedkindergarten classes last week inTweed, where one of the amenities wassupposed to be an artificial turf field onthe northeast lawn of City Hall Park.The Parks Dept. has been promising toput down artificial turf there for years,because the lawn is heavily used and thetrees that shade it prevent grass fromgrowing. When the turf did not arrive aspromised, parents at the two new schoolsbrought their complaints to AssemblySpeaker Sheldon Silver, who helpedsecure the temporary school space atTweed for this fall.“The poor condition on that lawn areaneeds a pretty immediate remediation,”Silver said Monday at a meeting of hisovercrowding taskforce. “Especially afterall that rain, it’s less than ideal.”Manhattan Parks Commissioner BillCastro attended the meeting and said hewould find a solution, but it would morelikely be sod rather than artificial turf. Aturf field would require a lengthy designand contracting process, which the cityhas not yet begun, so the turf could notbe installed until at least February, Castrosaid. Sod, on the other hand, could arrivewithin a couple weeks.“The plan is to address this one way oranother immediately,” Castro said.Castro expects sod (carpet-like rollsof grass) to hold up better than regulargrass in the shady section of the parkthat now has only dirt. If the sod doesnot work, the city could still install anartificial turf field later, he said.The Parks Dept. most recentlypromised in July 2008 to install turf on the lawn, but Castro said he couldnot have moved faster on it becauseCommunity Board 1 did not approve theproposal until March 2009.A third option for the lawn would beto spread a natural material, similar towoodchips, which could also be donequickly. Castro said he would make adecision this week.Harris said she did not have apreference among the alternatives.“The right alternative is the one thatallows kids to play safely — the soonerthe better,” she said.Learan Kahanov, a Spruce Streetparent, said some parents expressedconcerns about the safety of artificialturf, so sod could be a better choice,especially since it would come onlinesooner.“It would be nice for them to havesomething softer to fall on,” he said.
— Julie Shapiro 
Getting out of Tweed schoolyard mud
Downtown Express photo by Julie Shapiro
TheTweed schoolyard in City Hall Park ismostly dirt. The city promised to fix itup soon.Many parents favor creating four zones for P.S.89, 234, 276 and Spruce Street, and city Dept. ofEducation officials say they are inclined to follow theconsensus.
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