As construction for the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy Charter School and new community center at St. Nicholas Houses moves forward, 32 more New York City Housing Authority families residing in the development are already looking forward to their children attending. All 65 families at St. Nicholas Houses who have applied to the HCZ Promise Academy lottery thus far have been accepted. The new school building, which is scheduled to open in late 2012, will accommodate up to 1,300 students between kindergarten and 12th grade. The children accepted also get a chance to attend the free Harlem Gems Pre-school program.
"This is a good thing,” said Sandra Alvarez, a resident of St. Nicholas Houses whose son was accepted to be a part of the 2013 kindergarten class. “I am glad he will be able to go to school here.”
Hajedy Cruz, whose daughter has also been accepted, is also happy her child will be able to attend school in light of the educational opportunities it can afford her child and the proximity.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Cruz. “Because it’s closer to home I can drop her off at school in the morning and go to my classes.”
The partnership with Harlem Children’s Zone is part of NYCHA’s overall investment in collaboration to revitalize and expand its communities, as well as improve the quality of life of all its residents.
“Opening the new Harlem Children’s Zone school at the St. Nicholas Houses is about preserving public housing for the future, and working with our partners to create more education and employment opportunities for our residents,” said Chairman John Rhea. “The new school and community center will benefit St. Nicholas Houses residents and the surrounding community.”
This effort is also part of NYCHA’s comprehensive five year vision – a strategic plan to Preserve Public Housing that will serve as a vital roadmap for addressing our residents’ needs and quality-of-life concerns, as well as other challenges in the future.
The $100-million, five-story, 135,000-square-foot school building will house a new community center and the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy I, which is currently located at the Harlem Children’s Zone’s 125th Street headquarters and at PS 175 on West 134th Street. The building will have more than 50 classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, a two-floor library, gymnasium/auditorium, large cafeteria/meeting room, fitness room, dance studio, music room, computer lab and three science labs. The community center will offer a variety of free programs to the residents of the neighborhood, such as exercise and nutrition classes. The building’s facilities and meeting rooms will also be available to St. Nicholas Houses residents and community groups.
Funding for the school building was made possible, in part, by a $60 million grant from the New York City Department of Education’s Charter Facilities Matching Grant Program, a $20 million gift from Goldman Sachs Gives and a $6 million gift from Google, Inc. The building’s developer, Civic Builders, is donating its $5 million development fee and the law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP is providing pro bono legal services.
As part of the project, Harlem Children’s Zone will also upgrade the existing playgrounds in the housing development and plant new trees along 129th Street. Once constructed, New York City will take ownership of the school building while Harlem Children’s Zone maintains and operates the school.