Here is what you need to know about the DOE: they make decisions based on citywide issues. The decisions may seem politically loaded depending on the local lens through which they are viewed - they have to do with the minutiae of bureaucracy and not evil intent. If there was an evil master plan, everything would probably work more smoothly - I AM JOKING.
Here is what is going on with the wait-lists at local zoned schools:
First off, I have not seen or heard from a single family who has received a rejection letter. If you have one, I would love to see it. There is a WORLD of difference between a rejection and a wait-list. Everyone needs to take a breath.
Think of this a time released admission. First, the zoned kids get their letters...wait...make sure there is room for everyone. Then the out of zone sibs...wait...okay, more spots available? now out of zone within the district (if there are more families than there are spaces, there will be a lottery)...wait, okay, still more seats then out of district families get the nod. In the meantime, g&t, charter and un-zoned placements are made and some registered families will make a move...look more seats are open! send out more letters. This is no different than in previous years except that it is more proscribed and systematic. As far as real life placements go, it is really NO DIFFERENT. If your heart's desire school had seats available last year for out of zone and out of district kids, it will have them this year. HANG IN THERE, they will be released.
Here is why I think that they are doing the wait-lists this way: no matter what you believe, the DOE's main mandate is fairness in elementary placement. That means a true lottery according to set priorities. In the city as a whole there are many, many neighborhoods where the local zoned schools are terribly overcrowded and there are not nearly enough seats for all the zoned kindergarteners. In past years with a more chaotic admissions protocol these families who should have been placed at nearby schools with room had placement issues because the schools that they should have gone to accepted other out of zone or district families out of priority order. This is the issue that I believe caused this slow roll out of acceptances.
If you love a school that is out of your zone or district, stay on the wait-list. If you don't get a placement right away keep waiting. It is not pleasant to wait. Patience is a virtue. I have known families who got the good word at their Holy Grail school in the second week of Sept. You may need to wait for what you want - in the end there is a good chance that you will get it (or something just as good).