The New York City Housing Authority Board Approves Plan to Build the Harlem Children’s Zone School at the St. Nicholas Houses
Innovative Project Will Link Public Housing Residents to Education and Employment Opportunities
The New York City Housing Authority Board Wednesday voted to approve the
development of a new kindergarten-through-12th grade school and
community center building at the St. Nicholas Houses development, to be built
and operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). This new and exciting project
is part of NYCHA’s effort to meet President Obama’s Choice Neighborhoods and
Promise Neighborhoods challenge to housing authorities to integrate their
residents with the larger community and link them to outside educational
resources. The school building, to be funded by HCZ with assistance from the
School Construction Authority, will be available also for community programming,
including the use of the gymnasium in the evenings and on weekends.
“This project is about the future of NYCHA working with different partners
such as the Harlem Children’s Zone to create more education and employment
opportunities for our residents, while preserving public housing,” said NYCHA
Chairman John B. Rhea. “We are committed to using these collaborative strategies
to bring services to the residents of public housing and to open up developments
to the larger community. This new school will be a win-win situation for the St.
On November 16, 2010, NYCHA received approval from the U.S. Department for
Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) for permission to allow the school and
center to be built at St. Nicholas Houses. As part of this project, Harlem
Children’s Zone is giving first preference to 3-year olds from St. Nicholas
Houses who apply to the school. All of the more than 30 St. Nicholas families,
who applied for the Harlem Children’s Zone/Promise Academy lottery for the 2012
kindergarten class, were accepted. Many of them have already enrolled their
children in HCZ’s early childhood programs.
The proposed 130,000 square-foot charter school will serve 1,300 students in
grades K-12 from St. Nicholas Houses and the surrounding community. The City
will own the property. The completed facility will serve also as a free meeting
space for community groups, with free programming that will include afterschool
activities for students and other children in the neighborhood. Adults will have
access to evening classes at the school, including nutrition, exercise, and
continuing education, as well as weekend activities for children and adults. HCZ
anticipates the creation of approximately 100 long-term jobs at the new
school. Employment will include teachers, administrators, security guards,
maintenance workers, after-school program staff, etc. HCZ will
aggressively recruit from the St. Nicholas Houses and the surrounding community
to fill the positions.
“We are very excited to see this project move forward so that more
children at St. Nicholas Houses can get a great education and there will be more
services and jobs for the families there,” said Geoffrey Canada, President &
Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Harlem Children’s Zone required a new location for a K-12 school, as its
Promise Academy 1 has outgrown its space. NYCHA had an existing relationship
with HCZ at St. Nicholas Houses, where HCZ has operated the development’s
community center for the past two years. It was a natural progression for
the two organizations to work together on this mutually beneficial effort.
Building the school at St. Nicholas is in line with President Obama’s Choice
Neighborhoods initiative. In an effort to integrate the school fully with the
residential development, NYCHA and its partners at various City agencies are
developing a plan that will create improved pathways and landscaping to approach
the residential buildings to form a holistic community.
This effort is part of NYCHA’s comprehensive Five Year vision—a
strategic Plan to Preserve Public Housing that is an unprecedented collaboration
with partners in New York and across the country. The Plan will serve as a vital
roadmap for addressing our current services and quality of life concerns, as
well as other challenges in the future.