And how you can help

Thank you and a heartfelt call for VOLUNTEERS in architecture/design/construction and fundraising/development!

On Easter Sunday, 2021 we received some very good news! Our 4-year (or 11-year) quest for an aquatic training facility and space to grow at Harbor on Governors island had just been fulfilled, awarding Building 515 (The Hospital) to us by the City, the DOE/SCA and the Trust for Governors Island. The building is slated for renovation with a move-in date of 2024. The highlights of this LONG history are below. While we WON, the task before us is just as hard as the allotment of the building itself: now we need to make sure it is all it can be. Working and advocating for the better solutions (even if they cost a bit more) and, as needed, fundraising in the task of the next few years. If you have skills in architecture, design, construction, or fundraising and development we need your help NOW. Contact the SEA Committee of the PTA HERE and offer your time! Your energy and talents are critical in the next years.

Because everyone knows this building was won through parent power. In this long story, we salute those who made this happen with unflagging hard work and persistence. In 2017-2020 Theresa Jordan, Nan Richardson and Lissa Wolfe led the charge, along with Bill Seery, and numerous others who showed up and spoke out. This year seven parents powered the advocacy effort, with Nan Richardson as Chair, namely Amy Koethe, Amy Koza, Grace Mak, Lisa Shapiro, and Alex and Cas Stachelberg.

When in 2017 parents on the PTA board, asked what the school really NEEDED, the frustration at the lack of a gym, auditorium and especially, pool was paramount. They explained we had to travel 4 times a week to Bushwick, 7 hours,round trip, between packing the van with 2000 pounds of gear, then the ferry,  then drive and unload at the Bushwick school, then reloading, driving back on island, all to use a pool for a couple of hours (shared with 4 schools so our time there is limited). It seemed outrageously unfair. 

Theresa and Nan formed a Pool Committee and Theresa wrote to Senator Montgomery asking her to look into it. The balloon went up. Lissa joined, then Bill and others. We started appearing at the Panel for Educational Policy monthly, pointing this out to Chancellor  Farina. We went to see ALL our elected officials, explaining the situation, and asking: “Would they tell LaGuardia to travel to Staten Island to use a stage; ask Stuyvesant to  go to Queens to use a lab?“   We told them that though our school is small and unscreened by  choice, and the first to adopt the Chancellor’s Diversity plan, we were very proud about the barriers it is breaking in the maritime world.  We researched— and learned that only 14% of  the billions of dollars’ worth of jobs in NY Harbor are even held by New Yorkers—a stat Harbor means to change. We pointed out that at least 50% of our kids come to us not knowing how to swim, yet we send them out every day on boats and on the water—because we cannot teach them without a facility! A safety issue and an equity issue (as swimming is a prerequisite in most maritime jobs).

The cause was righteous, so we persevered. Our numbers grew. 20 parents became 80. Obstacles at various points included a promise for one building, in 2012, in 2014 rescinded, then promised again in 2018 (with no contact signed by 2021). Our list of supporters grew also: Council Member Margaret Chin,  Borough President Gale Brewer and Senator Brian Kavanagh led the charge,  along with Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Nioh—who all signed an open letter to the Mayor asking for Harbor School to get space and facilities. We appeared in January 2019  before the new Chancellor, Carranza, who visited in April 2019 and promised help Community Board 1 joined with their critical support, as did CB2 Brooklyn and CB6 Brooklyn. Council Members Levin, Borelli, Matteo, Ulrich signed on. And on Easter morning we got the call that the Mayor had signed and the press releases could go out. Hallelujah indeed!

So now we build out this beautiful McKim, Meade and White landmark of 61,000K feet,  a structure  big enough for the aquatic center to finally allow the Harbor School to fulfill its mission (and sufficient for our gym and library and classrooms), ideally located right alongside our present main school. 

We add that all the parents who have spent weeks and months and years on this fight have done so because they care deeply about the school’s future and see this is the right path. Not one of us will see this in our own child’s time there, but we know in our hearts it is absolutely the right thing. For this school benefits the city on water that is New York, as our kids daily engage in cleaning  up the Harbor, planting the oysters that make a difference to our waters, and growing the oceanographers, marine engineers, marine scientists, aquaculture specialists and much more, future talent who will carry us safely to shore in this climate change century ahead.