To ease school crowding, legislator urges DOE to rezone itself

To ease crowding in Lower Manhattan, the Department of Education could move offices out of its headquarters.

That’s the suggestion of State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who argues in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott that DOE officials would do well to clear out to make space for children.

The letter comes days after the elected parent council for Manhattan’s District 2 rejected a DOE plan that would have tweaked zones for some overcrowded schools and created a zone for a new school set to open next year.

That school, Peck Slip School, is set to spend its first year in the basement of Tweed Courthouse, the DOE’s headquarters ever since Mayor Bloomberg relocated the education department’s offices from Brooklyn when he first gained control of the schools. The ornate building mostly contains administrative offices, but for the last several years, its basement has housed just-starting-out schools. Ross Global Charter School and the Spruce Street School have occupied the space while waiting for permanent sites, and Innovate Manhattan Charter School opened there this year.

Since the space is certified for public school occupancy — an obstacle the city has run up against when surveying other vacant buildings in Manhattan — Squadron says the DOE should convert more offices into classrooms and send the adults elsewhere. He suggests Tower 4 of the World Trade Center, where the city has already leased space starting in 2013.

“Simply rearranging school zones will not address the serious overcrowding problem in Lower Manhattan,” he writes.

In the letter, Squadron also raises concerns about the city’s enrollment projections — an issue he tried to address in a state bill last year — and possible effects on federal funding at Chinatown’s P.S. 1 if the city directed large numbers of middle-class students to the Title I school.