Harlem Children’s Zone Opens K‐12 School & Community Center
At the St. Nicholas Houses
The Harlem Children’s Zone held a ribbon‐cutting ceremony today to open its new, $100‐million, K‐12 school building and community center in the heart of the St. Nicholas Houses, a development in the New York City Housing Authority(NYCHA). The five‐floor building will become the new home for the existing Promise Academy I Charter School, which currently has more than 900 students at three different locations and will grow to serve 1,300 children. It will also offer a wide array of programming – from GED classes to Zumba‐ for children and adults in the community to use – all for free. The building will also be available for community events.
“Schools represent the promise we make to our children – a promise that their futures will be stronger, healthier, and more secure,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The new Promise Academy One – the result of a partnership between the Harlem Children’s Zone, the New York City Housing Authority City Housing Authority, and the families at St. Nicholas Houses – will be an anchor for the revitalization of this community. It’s thanks to strong partnerships likes that we’ve been able to make great progress in improving education in the city, increasing graduation rates by 40% since 2005.”
“The new Harlem Children’s Zone school at the St. Nicholas Houses is a notable example of how we can pursue creative partnerships that provide educational and employment opportunities that will enrich our residents and the entire community,” said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. “This unique mixed‐use development approach is also consistent with Plan NYCHA — our strategic roadmap to preserve public housing — and with the federal government’s Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods initiatives, which promote the integration of public housing developments into the larger community.”
“This is the beginning of a bright, new era for the residents of St. Nicholas as well for the children of our Promise Academy Charter School,” said Geoffrey Canada, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone. “Today we begin to transform what it means to live in the St. Nicholas Houses.”
As part of the construction, West 129th Street was converted from a cul‐de‐sac to a one‐way through street, which will reintegrate the St. Nicholas superblock into the blocks around it. HCZ also worked with St. Nicholas residents to plan the renovation of three playgrounds with themes chosen by the residents themselves: art/music, science and nature.
“Congratulations to Mr. Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone on the opening of this impressive new building, which will benefit generations of students and families in the surrounding community,” said NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “Promise Academy is off to a remarkably strong start, and this state‐of‐the‐art facility will encourage students to reach their greatest potential. I thank our private partners who helped make this project a reality.”
“Initiatives like the Harlem Children’s Zone help create long‐term, sustainable growth in New York City Housing Authority City, said Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs President and COO. “Goldman Sachs Gives is proud to partner with HCZ, and we look forward to seeing this school serve the students and families from the community for years to come.”
“The Harlem Children’s Zone shows what is possible when you take an audacious goal and pursue it with passion and good execution,” said Nikesh Arora, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer, Google. “I’m humbled by the drive of this team. Today is a moment that will change many lives in Harlem with the power of knowledge, education, and community.”
The light‐filled, 135,000‐square‐foot building has 52 classrooms with Smart Board technology, two libraries, three science labs, two outdoor play areas, a full‐size gym/auditorium, two art rooms, a music room, a dance studio, fitness center and locker rooms and a fully equipped kitchen and cafeteria. The students will have access to a school‐based health center offering free medical, dental and mental health services. The cafeteria will provide freshly made healthy breakfasts and lunches to all students without charge. AT&T donated its services, installing a Wi-Fi system throughout the building, and is providing Wi-Fi access at no charge; the company also donated 1,500 tablets for classroom use.
“Our contribution to Harlem Children’s Zone will give the students access to 21st century technology,” said Marissa Shorenstein, President, New York City – AT&T. “Tools like mobile apps and tablets can make the classroom experience more dynamic and interactive. Even better, the kids can learn skills that will stay with them as they continue their education and beyond.”
Admission to the school is primarily through lottery and HCZ has given children from St. Nicholas Houses first priority over the past three years and will continue to do so. The school holds a lottery each August for three‐year‐olds and those who are picked are admitted as kindergarteners at five years old. They are also given the opportunity to enroll in the free Harlem Gems pre‐kindergarten program when they are four years old. There are more than 100 St. Nicholas students who – because of this lottery prioritization‐ are now in the Promise Academy, in Harlem Gems, or who have spots reserved for them when they enter kindergarten.
“This $100 million building is the latest of the Harlem Children’s Zone’s efforts to rebuild the community,” said Stanley Druckenmiller, Chairman of the HCZ Board of Trustees. “Near our headquarters on 125th Street, which opened in 2004, the immediate area has been transformed – the streets are bustling with families and shoppers, new stores have opened, and they are often patronized by our staff, students and families. The same will happen here at St. Nicholas.”
“A school building is only as good as the people inside it,” said Ken Langone, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Promise Academy. “And, as a board member, I have seen the incredible hard work and dedication of the teachers, the students and the parents. Last year, Promise Academy had its first high school graduation and 100 percent of the seniors were accepted into college. Later this month, we will have our second graduation and 98 percent have been accepted to college to pursue their dreams and prepare themselves for the high‐skills job market.”
The building was a public‐private partnership funded by $60 million from the New York City Department of Education Charter School Facilities Matching Grant Program, as well as $20 million from GoldmanSachs Gives;and $6 million from Google. Civic Builders, Harlem Children’s Zone’s development partner, donated nearly $5 million in fees to the project. The law firm of Shearman & Sterling donated its legal services. The New York City Housing Authority provided the land for the new school. The City will retain ownership of the building, while the Harlem Children’s Zone operates and manages it through a 99‐year lease.
HCZ made and will continue to make efforts to hire St. Nicholas and NYCHA residents for construction and operation of the building. The organization has given summer jobs to 100 St. Nicholas youth for each of the past three summers and will continue to do so.
“Civic Builders is proud to have partnered with Harlem Children’s Zone, NYCHA and New York City’s DOE and the School Construction Authority to develop the new facility for Promise Academy. As this groundbreaking collaboration demonstrates, we remain committed to supporting charter school success by enabling high achieving schools like Promise Academy to focus time and resources on educating students, not navigating the complex real estate market. With ongoing support from such an inspiring array of partners, we are confident Promise Academy will become a positive impact for Harlem’s children and the greater community‐‐not only for its current students, but for generations to come,” said David Umansky, CEO of Civic Builders.
The building was designed by John Ciardullo Associates, and was constructed by the Tishman Construction Corporation. AKRF Engineering P.C. designed the opening of 129th Street and the surrounding landscape.
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA):
NYCHA provides decent and affordable housing in a safe and secure living environment for low- and moderate-income residents in New York City. NYCHA serves approximately 420,000 public housing residents across 334 developments in all five boroughs. To fulfill this mission, NYCHA must preserve its aging housing stock through timely maintenance and modernization of its developments. NYCHA also administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. Simultaneously, we work to enhance the quality of life at NYCHA by offering our residents opportunities to participate in a multitude of community, educational, and recreational programs, as well as job readiness and training initiatives.