Plans for larger NY Harbor School enhance impact of Governors Island

Former home of US Coast Guard, island now hosts environmental, educational future

August 16, 2022 Special from the Mayor's Office
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New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday announced new plans to expand the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island. Doubling the school’s footprint from two to four buildings — including one that will be newly constructed — the plan will bring additional classroom space and new facilities, including a pool, gymnasium, and lab space to support the school’s unique maritime and environmental curriculum. The plan is the product of a partnership between the Trust for Governors Island, the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA).

“For many New Yorkers, Governors Island is a place to get away over the weekend. And for so many others, it is a place to learn about our world or prepare our city for the threats of climate change,” said Adams. “This project will give our young people the best of all worlds: a holistic, high-quality education, brand new facilities to help students learn, and access to one of our city’s gems where nature truly is the classroom.”

“The Urban Assembly Harbor School expansion will provide our youth with brand-new facilities, a unique learning environment, and exposure to a city treasure in Governors Island,” said First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo. “Thank you, Mayor Adams, the School Construction Authority, and all the city and community stakeholders for making this project possible.”

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Lorraine Grillo. Official photo courtesy of SCA

“Governors Island has proven itself to be a recreational, cultural, and educational resource for over a decade in partnership with the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “We know the exceptional students at the Harbor School have bright futures, and I am excited to see all they can accomplish with state-of-the-art expanded space and resources.”

Expansion plans announced today include the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility located on a site within the Island’s Western Development Zone. The new facility will house a competition-sized pool to support the school’s unique water-dependent maritime programs, a new gymnasium, and expanded laboratory space dedicated to career-technical training and research. The new facility will be the first new construction building located within a development zone on Governors Island since its transfer from federal to local control and will be a key component of the trust’s planned multi-tenant Center for Climate Solutions. The construction of the new pool, gymnasium, and laboratory facility will demonstrate bold sustainable and resilient design as outlined in the trust’s goals for the Climate Center and the island’s overall transformation.

The School Construction Authority will also renovate Building 555 — a designated landmark building originally constructed in 1938 as family housing by the United States Army — to support 32,000 square feet of additional classroom space. Both projects will expand the Harbor School’s facilities on Governors Island from two buildings to four. The overall expansion project includes capital funding support from the New York City Council and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

Studemts at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. Photo: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

The first year-round tenant on Governors Island since its transfer from federal to local control in 2003, the mission of the Harbor School — a DOE public high school — is to provide a college-preparatory education built upon New York City’s maritime experience with a focus on environmental stewardship. With its partners — including the Billion Oyster Project — the school develops authentic activities for its students on, around, and related to the water that creates a sense of responsibility to the New York Harbor and develop a new generation of maritime advocates, enthusiasts, workers, and decision-makers. The Harbor School currently occupies nearly 80,000 square feet across two buildings located within the Governors Island Historic District, including Building 550 and the Marine and Science Technology Center, which supports the school’s water dependent activity.

The expansion of the Harbor School comes at a transformational moment as the trust moves forward, with plans to develop a Center for Climate Solutions, which will expand partnership, learning and training opportunities for students on Governors Island. The trust is currently in the process of attracting an anchor educational and research institution as part of the Center for Climate Solutions, a groundbreaking initiative designed to further New York City as a global leader in efforts to respond to the climate crisis. A key part of Mayor Eric Adams’ Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery, the project will support the research, development, and demonstration of equitable climate solutions for New York City — that can be scaled and applied globally.

The existing Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. Photo: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

“The Urban Assembly Harbor School is an incredible example of how a school’s campus and facilities can help mold our students’ passions, interests, and, ultimately, their path to economic security. Most importantly, we listened to and heard from the students, educators, and families of the Harbor School, who advocated for these facility investments,” said DOE Chancellor David C. Banks. “I look forward to the impact that these new and sustainable facilities, including a new pool, gymnasium, and laboratory, will have on this unique school community, and thank the School Construction Authority and the Trust for Governors Island for their continued partnership.”

Clare Newman, CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. Photo courtesy of govisland.com

“For over a decade, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School has utilized Governors Island and New York Harbor as a living classroom, where students from across the five boroughs receive career training in maritime and environmental fields and are empowered to take action in the face of climate change, and today’s announcement of an expanded campus means more students than ever will have the opportunity to experience its unique curriculum,” said Clare Newman, president and CEO, Trust for Governors Island. “We’re honored to have worked with Mayor Eric Adams, the School Construction Authority, Schools Chancellor David Banks, and the Harbor School community to develop new state-of-the-art laboratory and aquatic facilities here on Governors Island, where students will gain exposure to real-world training for jobs in the maritime, climate, and the environmental fields.”

Chancellor David Banks with Mayor Eric Adams at a Bronx school in January 2022. Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office

“I am thrilled that the SCA will be able to improve and expand upon our original plans for the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School,” said SCA president and CEO Nina Kubota. “The collaborative effort between the SCA, DOE, and the Trust for Governors Island has led to this terrific opportunity for the school’s unique maritime programming to serve even more New York City students as well as an additional resource for the community.”

“The expansion of Urban Assembly New York Harbor School brings to life our chancellor’s vision of reimagining the student learning experience,” said Fred Walsh, high school superintendent for CUNY and the Urban Assembly, DOE. “We are thrilled about the plan to expand and improve the school’s facilities, which will ultimately expand opportunities for students across the city. Students who attend the Harbor School engage in a wide range of maritime- and marine science-focused career and technical education (CTE) programs and work-based learning, leading to industry certification, and preparing them for successful experience in college or a career of their choice. As our world changes and the need for climate change solutions evolves, this expansion will enrich the lives of countless students, while preparing future graduates to be at the forefront of the field and enter the workforce prepared to lead. We look forward to seeing the impact the expansion has on all of the students and families who join the Harbor School Community.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2020.
Photo: Greg Nash/AP

“I am proud to have long championed Governors Island; it is truly one of our city’s hidden gems,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler. “I have long supported the Harbor School on Governors Island. I believe that its educational mission is so important today, which is why after many years of advocacy it is great news that the School Construction Authority and the city are finally announcing an expansion of the school and building, a much-needed pool, gymnasium, and new science labs.”

“The New York Harbor School’s CTE program is one of the most unique in the city, and because of that, careful considerations must be made when developing a space that is intended to be of optimal service to the school community there,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “I am extremely pleased to see that SCA is acting on those considerations and centering equity as it relates to a school whose mission is to provide robust, unique, on-water experiences for their students and offer pathways into maritime careers.”

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh. Photo courtesy of Kavanagh’s office

“I am thrilled that the Harbor School will be expanding its facilities and that they will finally get their long-awaited swimming pool and gymnasium,” said New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “For nearly twenty years, the Harbor School has offered unique educational opportunities to a diverse student body. Learning marine biology, sailing, and other watercraft skills, and collaborating with the Billion Oyster Project, all prepare students for careers engaging with and being good stewards of our natural environment — and serving Governors Island, the harbor, and New York. The aquatic center will allow students to take full advantage of the school’s maritime-themed academics. I am glad that the expansion includes additional classroom space, giving more students the chance to experience this exceptional education on Governors Island. Thank you to the trust, the School Construction Authority, Principal Jeff Chetirko, the Harbor School PTA, the students, Community Board 1, and all of the dedicated advocates who helped make this possible.”

“I am excited to see that after years of advocacy from parents, community members, and elected officials, Harbor School is finally getting the resources it deserves,” said New York State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “It is vital that we support our CTE programs and that we increase access to specialized resources and other facilities for our students. This proposal does both, and I am proud to have advocated for these projects.”

“Since taking office, we have been working with the Harbor School staff and parents to advocate for a full-sized competitive pool for their students,” said New York City Councilmember Christopher Marte. “We are so excited that the School Construction Authority has heard our call and committed to creating an incredible facility for one of our district’s most unique public high schools. Harbor School students have unique opportunities to graduate high school with skills that make them uniquely qualified to work green jobs and with our waterways. However, the lack of access to a competitive-sized swimming pool has left a significant gap in this education. The addition of this pool shows the power of community activism and the willingness of the School Construction Authority to work with parents and staff.”

Studemts at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. Photo: Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

“CB1 is thrilled that the Harbor School will finally have their long-awaited aquatics center on Governors Island,” said Tricia Joyce, chairperson, Youth and Education Committee, Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB1). “The School Construction Authority and the Trust for Governors Island responded to PTA and community feedback to find a solution, and the location and design of the new building will make this special program for environmental science and maritime careers on the water whole at last. We thank our elected officials for their tireless support of education in Community District 1.”

“We are thrilled and excited that the New York Harbor School’s long quest for an aquatics center and gym will finally have a facility empowering success for this special program of environmental science and maritime careers in our city on the water,” said Nan Richardson, chair, SEA committee; and Amy Koza, PTA president, New York Harbor School. “Gratitude to the Trust for Governors Island and School Construction Authority and to the chancellor for their commitment to a visionary future of education, as well as to Congressman Nadler, Councilmember Marte, Senator Kavanagh, Assemblymember Fall, Assemblymember Niou, and Manhattan Borough President Levine for their unflagging support and belief in innovative learning. Every single family and friend of Harbor School past, present, and future, will be joyous at this news.”

“The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School community greatly appreciates the support of the Trust for Governors Island and the School Construction Authority for providing our public school the necessary tools to meet the requirements of our seven career and technical education pathways,” said Jeffrey Chetirko, principal, The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. “This investment will ensure greater opportunities to prepare our students to pursue careers in the blue and green economies of the future and continue to appreciate and protect our city’s greatest natural resources, New York Harbor and Governors Island. These resources will create equitable facilities, allowing New York City students to learn to swim, space for physical education, and state-of-the-art facilities that will support the environmental work we do with the Billion Oyster Project.”

“The Urban Assembly’s ability to provide robust work-based learning and career pathways in the maritime industry has been strengthened by this expansion,” said David Adams, CEO, The Urban Assembly. “We look forward to continuing the work of developing the next generation of stewards and leaders of the New York Harbor.”


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