New Lower Manhattan school looks less likely

Lower Manhattan has a reduced chance of getting new school seats in the Department of Education’s next capital plan, based on new details about the plan the D.O.E. released this week.

Lower Manhattan is already getting two new schools under previous capital plans — P.S. 276 in Battery Park City in 2010 and the Beekman school in 2010 or 2011 — along with a small incubator school in Tweed Courthouse next fall, but parents say the neighborhood needs an additional 804 elementary seats, based on all of the residential buildings expected to open in the next few years.

The D.O.E.’s 2010-2014 capital plan, released last month, included 3,046 new school seats for District 2, but most of them are located outside of Lower Manhattan. The plan included two new District 2 schools without locations and the report suggested both could be below Canal St.

The larger of the two un-sited schools, called “Project #4,” will go in Chelsea/Midtown West, not Lower Manhattan, D.O.E. spokesperson Will Havemann said this week. Project #4 will be a P.S./I.S. school with 738 seats opening in the fall of 2015.

That leaves only one possibility for Downtown: Project #2, which would open 118 elementary seats in January of 2016. The D.O.E. has not found a site for Project #2, but it will go somewhere in an area called “Tribeca/Village,” which also includes the Financial District, Havemann said.

“The whole thing seems to be inadequate,” said Anne Albright, co-chairperson of P.S. 89’s overcrowding committee. “They agree there’s a problem but they don’t seem able to forecast where the problem will arise…. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

“Clearly, 118 seats isn’t a school,” agreed Tricia Joyce, a member of P.S. 234’s overcrowding committee. “It would have to be some sort of annex.”

While Joyce said she would be thrilled to have any extra seats, 118 falls far short of the neighborhood’s needs, and even those 118 could end up outside the neighborhood in the Village.

That scenario seems entirely possible since the Village has not gotten any new schools and parents have looked with envy farther Downtown to the C.B. 1 area, which is getting two K-8 schools already because it is the fastest growing part of the city. Village parents will undoubtedly not like it if they get no new schools in the new capital plan after being told they had a chance at two.

The 118 seats will cost the city $12.56 million to build, which both Albright and Joyce said sounded like a lot of money for so few kids. There is some speculation that the 118 seats will go in 26 Broadway, where the D.O.E. has said there will be extra space once the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women opens next fall. Havemann said the city had not decided on a site for the 118 seats.

Community Board 1 passed a resolution this week strongly objecting to the capital plan.

— Julie Shapiro