Talk of UWS school relocation stirs real estate controversy (of course)


On the weekends, the playground of PS 452 turns into a flea market.

Bex Walton/Flickr

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Public schools and real estate values are forever intertwined, so with each potential change (a rezoning, a closing, etc.), New Yorkers tend to panic about their real estate values going down.

So, it's no big surprise to hear of controversy surrounding a proposal to transplant a cramped Upper West Side elementary school, Public School 452 (aka PS 452)—currently housed on West 77th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus—and move it 16 blocks south. If moved, the school would share a campus with another school, PS 191.

Gothamist reports that a group of parents denouncing the proposal are bullying parents and kids who don't agree. One father who asked to remain anonymous told the website he'd heard of kids being univited to playdates amidst differing viewpoints.

Some parents are arguing that they invested in the West 70s (heavily, in many cases, considering the median sales price for a two-bedroom in the neighborhood is $1.565 million and median rent is $4,100) so that their children could walk to a high-performing school, reports Gothamist.

PS 452's campus shares facilities with two middle schools, and doesn't have its own auditorium, cafeteria, courtyard, or even library, says the site. In fact, PS 452 was originally formed in 2010 to ease overcrowding at nearby high-achieving schools PS 199 and PS 87, and is now considered by many local parents to be on par with those. 

(At PS 452, 64 percent of the student body is white, and only 11 percent of students qualify for free lunch. In contrast, black and Latino students make up 81 percent of PS 191, where 73 percent of students qualify for free lunch, according to Gothamist.)

Those against the move say that the city should build a new school in their neighborhood instead.

A post on a nearby co-op's online message board leaked this week showed how some are worried about property values. "There is a consideration to move the school to a neighborhood (61st and Amsterdam) that has a very different demographic makeup. THIS CAN GREATLY IMPACT THE VALUE OF OUR HOMES. The great schools are part of what makes this area very desirable," the post read.

But honestly? We're not buying it. The West 70s is one of the most valuable and pricey areas in the city. It would take a lot more than this to devalue apartments, we think.

And appraiser Jonathan Miller agrees. "The move has the potential to impact property values, but probably not to a significant degree since there are other good elementary schools in the neighborhood," he says. Yet, "given the drama that is unfolding, it seems pretty clear that losing a strong school like this won't go unnoticed by market participants."

Miller explains that  "after transportation access, public or private schools can be a key influencer on property values nearby."

But nothing is a done deal yet. The Department of Education is expected to present formal proposals for school swapping and rezoning within District 3 (where PS 452 resides) this fall.

And last year, PS 199 families helped halt a proposal that would have rezoned some to PS 191, a lower performing school. Some of the concerns then too had to do with real estate prices.


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