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Parent group says Upper West Side rezoning proposal violated open meetings laws

In 2016, the Community Education Council in Manhattan's District 3 approved a controversial school rezoning aimed in part at integrating schools.
In 2016, the Community Education Council in Manhattan's District 3 approved a controversial school rezoning aimed in part at integrating schools.
Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat

After more than a year of debating the best way to rezone schools on the Upper West Side, the local Community Education Council stepped in last week, drafting its own proposal and sending it to schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

But now, a group called “the Coalition of District 3 Parents” says the CEC does not have the authority to offer such proposals — and that the CEC violated open meetings laws in creating its plan.

In a letter sent Sunday, the coalition requests a slew of public records pertaining to the rezoning and asks for the CEC’s plan to be retracted.

“The CEC purports to be guided by, among other things, transparency,” the letter states. “The CEC, however, failed to provide transparency in crafting the plan.”

In an email, CEC President Joe Fiordaliso said the council “has always conducted itself properly.”

It is up to the city Department of Education to formally propose new school zone lines, but the CEC ultimately votes to approve or reject changes. The DOE has not yet presented a formal proposal to be voted on.

The parent coalition takes issue with the CEC’s plan, arguing that it “was not made in an open meeting, subject to public comment and then ratified by the mandated public roll call vote.” CEC member Noah Gotbaum, at a meeting on Oct. 19, raised similar concerns.

“For those of you who were blindsided by this plan, join the club,” he said. “I had no opportunity whatsoever to comment on this plan.”

First reported by the Wall Street Journal, the letter was posted to a website for parents opposed to moving P.S. 452 about 16 blocks, an option the CEC plan supported, to a site across from a public housing complex. The move is just one element of a contentious fight over rezoning proposals meant to relieve overcrowding and integrate schools in the district’s southern end.

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