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rendering of the future Promise Academy I Charter School at St. Nicholas Houses
NYCHA & Harlem Children's Zone Unite to Bring New School and Community Resource to St. Nicholas Houses

The Obama administration’s vision for community revitalization challenges housing authorities across the country to undertake comprehensive plans for neighborhood development that integrate housing, schools, commercial corridors, community facilities, improved infrastructure and transportation.

Through a partnership with the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), NYCHA is taking on this challenge to transform communities, and empower and engage residents. The Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ)/ Saint Nicholas Houses Project will bring to the community:

  • A new charter school, operated by Harlem Children's Zone, will be located on the grounds of Saint Nicholas Houses. HCZ's Promise Academies have outgrown their current facilities and they have been looking for a location within its Zone to build a new school building.
  • Building a school at St. Nicholas Houses also provides an opportunity to re-introduce West 129th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards.Building a school and community facility at St. Nicholas Houses meets the dual goals of NYCHA revitalizing public housing neighborhoods and HCZ expanding services to families in public housing.
  • No residents will be displaced or buildings demolished as part of this plan.


  • HCZ has provided after-school programs at the St. Nicholas and Lincoln Houses Community Centers since 2008, and has become a trusted and valued partner.
  • HCZ already provides services for approximately 770 St. Nicholas Houses residents across 20 different programs including, Baby College, pre-school programs, after school programs, its charter schools, and its family/community programs.


  • HCZ plans to build a 130,000 sq ft charter school for Promise Academy I that will serve up to 1,300 Kindergarten to 12th grade students at St. Nicholas Houses.
  • The school will be open at nights and weekends for the neighborhood free of charge.
  • The new school building will be five stories and situated along the newly reopened portion of West 129th Street. An attached two-story gym will extend northwest. The building will include: 52 general classrooms; 2 libraries; 2 art rooms; a computer lab; 3 science rooms, 6 special education/intervention rooms; music, dance, drama, and fitness rooms; a full-sized gymnasium/auditorium; locker rooms; large cafeteria and kitchen; multi-purpose room; and school-based health center.
  • West 129th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards will be re-opened.
  • A NYCHA parking lot with 34 spaces will be displaced to make way for the re-opened West 129th Street. Thirty parking spaces will be relocated to two smaller lots on the south side of the re-opened West 129th Street and four spaces will be added to the lot at Frederick Douglass Blvd and West 130th Street.
  • One playground in the bed of West 129th Street will be removed and not be replaced. There are 4 other play areas on site that serve the children of St. Nicholas.
  • More than 30,000 sq ft of open space will be newly landscaped and will have improved lighting.
  • In consultation with NYCHA residents, three gardens tended by residents will be relocated to accommodate the project.
  • At the conclusion of construction, all property will be publically owned.  The new school building and property on which its built will be owned by the Department of Education and leased to Harlem Children's Zone. If the ULURP is approved, the new street will be transferred to the City of New York. The renovated open space, parking lots, and all other property at St. Nicholas will remain the property of NYCHA.
  • See renderings of the school and a site plan


Education Enrichment

  • Children of St. Nicholas Houses have first open preference for HCZ's Promise Academy I's school lottery. The lottery is held two years before kindergarten (at age 3). Based on current demographics, now and in future years, all three-year olds at St. Nicholas who apply to the school are expected to be enrolled.
  • In HCZ's August 2010 lottery, all 33 St. Nicholas families that applied were accepted.
  • Second open preference in the lottery is for children in the local Community School District 5 who qualify for free or reduced lunch (low income).

Job Opportunities for NYCHA Residents and the Surrounding Community

  • The new school will provide approximately 100 long-term jobs and HCZ has committed to hire locally for all available positions.  HCZ is already working closely with NYCHA residential services outreach and recruitment for positions that are currently available.
  • HCZ committed and hired 100 St. Nicholas youths for its summer youth employment program.
  • There will be over 200 union construction jobs available during the various phases of construction. HCZ is working closely with NYCHA and local unions to develop a plan to hire as many qualified NYCHA residents and local community members for construction positions as possible.
  • HCZ has a history of success hiring MWBE's and is committed to do the same at the St. Nicholas site.

A State-of-the-Art Neighborhood Facility and Services - FREE to the Community

  • Residents and community members will have access to a state of the art gym, fitness, technology, and community meeting facilities, for free of charge.
  • HCZ will be able to expand its after school programs currently operating  at St. Nicholas to reach even more youth.
  • HCZ will offer adult education, social, and recreation classes weeknights and Saturdays. HCZ will design programs to meet the needs of the community and will consult with St. Nicholas residents to identify additional programs they would like offered.
  • All programs, services, and facilities are free and open to the community.

Enhanced Safety and Security

  • The new school will be located in the center of St. Nicholas Houses and will bring additional safety and security through lighting, foot-traffic, and security cameras.
  • The supportive adult presence of over 100 staff, including trained security staff, will monitor inside and outside the building and engage youth in positive programming.


NYCHA and HCZ have engaged the community, residents, and elected officials since December 2009 through dozens of meetings that included:
o St. Nicholas Tenant Association meetings
o Meetings with local elected officials
o Community Board 10 Land Use and Transportation Committee meetings
o Community Education Council 5 meeting
o Manhattan North COP meeting
o Public meeting for the community and residents on May 5, 2010 at the Dempsey Center
o Additional meetings/events at St. Nicholas including an Open House; topic specific follow up meetings on: educational opportunities, safety, the street design, and construction mitigation strategies; participation in Family Day; and a job fair.


  • Harlem Children's Zone will raise $40M for the project, while the NYC Department of Education is contributing $60M through the Charter School Facilities Matching Grant program. New York City will pay for the reconstruction of West 129th Street.
  • NYCHA will receive $7M from HCZ for acquisition of the land to build the school. No NYCHA funds will be used to build the school.


  • Construction is expected to start in late January/early February 2011 and to take between 18-20 months.
  • NYCHA and HCZ will establish monthly meetings for residents about the project to take place at St. Nicholas, starting in January 2011, and continuing through the duration of the construction process.
  • For More Information Please Contact:
    Harlem Children's Zone: Lauren Scopaz at 212-360-3255 or NYCHA: Katherine Gray at 212-306-4383

This project has been a collaboration with the Department of Education (DOE), the School Construction Authority (SCA), the Department of City Planning (DCP), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Department of Housing Development (HPD) and the Mayor's Office to create a sound plan.

Download the Project Overview (in PDF)
Download the ULURP: Remapping West 129th Street Overview (in PDF)
Download the renderings of the future school and site plan (in PDF)