There’s much to consider in choosing a co-op or condo in New York City. No one would dispute that school assignment is at the top of that list. While you can renovate a bathroom or kitchen, you can’t change the public elementary school to which your address is assigned. Known in New York City and many other urban areas as your “school catchment,” this factor may be among the most important in making a housing decision.
The Cachet of Catchments
School catchment has become a huge issue in the past couple of years, particularly on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where overcrowding at some of the neighborhood’s ‘better schools’ and a clear lack of a diversified student body at those same schools has led to the Department of Education to consider a change in the catchment zones. Two schools in particular, P.S. 199 and P.S. 87, both high performing schools, could be impacted by the potential changes. The situation at P.S. 199 has become particularly heated, with some residents in Lincoln Towers claiming that a change in school assignment could seriously affect the values of their apartments.
The Buyer’s Side
“There was a time,” said Larry Lubin, a real estate broker with Klara Madlin Realty, located on the Upper West Side, “when this was a major consideration. New York State guidelines no longer permit brokers to advertise apartments with information about school catchments. We’re not even allowed to talk about it with the client. It’s considered steering.”
Lubin later says that catchment zones change more frequently now than in the past. “While your child is grandfathered in once he or she attends kindergarten, you may find yourself in a different catchment than what you believed you were in when you bought your apartment before your child started school.”
Maya Allan, principal of MAllan NY Homes, a real estate brokerage firm that is active on the Upper West Side, says that often the decision and the relevance of school assignment rests with the individual buyer. “There are some people who will not send their children to private schools regardless of their financial ability. They want their children in a public school environment.”