Edge Cases

One of the considerations with the location of a house is which school district it is in. In some states, determining the school district is easy: it’s coterminous with the political unit, such as the city or county. In New York, it’s not so simple. However the question is rather important, as which school district your property is in can have a significant impact not just on your child’s education, but on the value of the property and your tax burden.

A development down Tarrytown way was built right on the edge of the Pocantico Hills and Tarrytowns districts. The families who bought homes in this development have sued to send their children to the Pocantico Hills school. It looks like they won’t be, as you can see in either the Journal-News article below, or in the appellate division’s verbose opinion.

Tarrytowns win development



(Original publication: July 19, 2005)

Nick Cerrito and his wife got harsh news just days after they moved into their new house at The Legends at Pocantico last week: The latest in a series of decisions places the properties in the Tarrytowns school district, starting now.

The state Supreme Court appellate division said Justice Linda Jamieson, who ruled in December that the children were entitled to attend Pocantico, did not have the authority to decide the boundary dispute. Rather, jurisdiction is with the state commissioner of education, the appellate court ruled.

Acting on behalf of the state, Ron Smalls, superintendent of the Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services, declared the houses to be in the Tarrytowns district in March 2004 after he reviewed documents and tax maps going back some 50 years.

Cerrito, himself a lawyer, said yesterday he thinks ultimately the land will be placed in the Pocantico district. He said he moved into the house thinking his children could go to school in the one-building district immediately because of an agreement that entitled the students to be enrolled in Pocantico until the outcome of the dispute was resolved.

But Tarrytowns Superintendent Howard Smith said a letter will go out immediately telling Legends residents that for public schooling, they’d have to sign up with the Tarrytowns for September.

“It is now resolved, and the agreement no longer applies,” he said. “Like any parent in any situation, they always have the option to choose a private or parochial school if that is their desire.”

A lawyer for the Pocantico district said he had not yet met with his clients concerning the ruling.

Cerrito and others said the whole point of moving to the County House Road properties was to take advantage of the Pocantico district, and “we are going to make sure the kids are in the Pocantico school,” he said. “For them to force these children now to have to go to multiple schools is unfair and heartless.”

Developer Mitchell Hochberg said he and the residents would appeal to the commissioner and to whomever else they had to.

Having the children “bounce back and forth … shows the profound lack of both school districts to focus on the interests of the children first,” he said.

Of the 11 custom multimillion-dollar houses to be built, nine have been sold. Families have moved into seven, and two are under construction. One family backed out when Hochberg offered to cancel contracts because of the dispute.

Three Legends students were permitted to enroll in Pocantico last year. Up to eight children are to be affected this year, including at least two who are disabled.

The appeals were joined by another homeowner, Bruce C. Edelstein, whose property on Cobb Lane was not in the new development but whose continued ability to send his children to Pocantico also was challenged. His lawyer did not return a phone call yesterday.