Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Sunny Side of the Street

One of the biggest draws in real estate is a good school. One person who knows that very well is Hillary Blumenthal-Levy. She paid 1.16 million dollars for a three bedroom co-op in Manhattan, and neglected to budget for private school. It didn't seem necessary, since both her real estate agent and the Department of Education website said her sons would be guaranteed access to PS 290.

Turns out, though, she's on the wrong side of the street, and the website was incorrect. She's suing the broker, claiming she specifically requested a place zoned for this school.

The Education Department acknowledges that a function on its Web site allowing people to determine school zones by entering an address is not able to give accurate information when the home is on a street that divides one zone from the next.

"We are working hard to address this issue, and we have included a disclaimer on our Web page," department spokeswoman Debra Wexler said in a statement. "If parents are looking at school zones as a factor when buying a home, we strongly encourage them to contact either the school or our Office of School Enrollment Planning and Operations before making a decision."

Wexler added that Blumenthal-Levy's apartment on the north side of E. 87th St. is in a "lottery" zone where kids are placed in upper East Side schools that include PS 6 and PS 290.

In a city where a highly rated public school can bump up a neighborhood's real estate prices, brokers will be stunned to learn that the Web site they count on for school-zone information isn't always accurate, said Della Leathers of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "This is pretty scary," she said. "I would have thought you'd be pretty safe relying on the Department of Education."

Welcome to Mr. Bloomberg's New York, Ms. Blumenthal-Levy
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