Press Release

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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. Nicholas Houses.”

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.