(from left) Kelly Bensimon, Alex McCord and Jill Zarin
09/17/2011 at 11:00 PM EDT
The Real Housewives of New York City
down four familiar faces.
, Alex McCord
, Kelly Bensimon
and Cindy Barshop
, the newest addition to the popular Bravo show, were not asked back for season 5.
"Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan and LuAnn DeLesseps will be returning for season 5 of The Real Housewives of New York City
," a network spokesperson tells PEOPLE. "We've had a fabulous run with all the ladies and appreciate them sharing their lives with our viewers. It is a friendly departure among the other ladies and we continue to have on-going discussions with them."
In response, McCord told PEOPLE via email: "Of course Simon and I are sad not to continue with RHONY
but it's a friendly decision and discussions with Bravo are ongoing for other projects."
Zarin also weighed in, via her rep, who told PEOPLE in a statement: "Jill is humbled by the extraordinary amount of media interest in her response and looks forward to personally opening up about all of this very soon and announcing some exciting new projects."
Rumors about the casting changes
began earlier in the week after the Huffington Post
, citing sources in the network, announced that Zarin, McCord and Bensimon were fired from the show. At the time, however, their reps – as well as Bravo – said nothing was official.
Zarin, meanwhile, said through a rep that she was still negotiating her contract.
When season 5 airs, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and Ramona Singer will be the only original castmembers returning. Sonja Morgan joined the show in season 3.
Reporting by CHARLOTTE TRIGGS