Dear PTA and all of the school:
When a new PTA freshman rep at Harbor in 2017, I asked what the priorities were, what the school really needed; and the older parents on the Executive board immediately said in unison: “a pool.”
Five long years of activism later (since 2010, five Chancellors and three mayors) I am thrilled to be able to announce the exciting news that we will, at last, be going ahead with a superb new facility, the Hospital, Building 515, on the plot of land adjacent to the school and facing the water, as the Trust has today awarded it and the SCA has agreed to build it out for us! The Mayor signed off last night. This will add 68,000 square feet ** of space to our current campus, almost doubling the physical size of the school. It will also get us the facilities Harbor has been sorely missing since arriving on island in 2010 as the first tenant, namely, an aquatic training facility, a gym and auditorium, a library (ours was sacrificed to overcrowding) and the classroom spaces and labs it needs to grow.
The engine behind this? Without question, you parents, whose passion has been indefatigable, with hundreds of hours spent visiting officials to explain our situation, writing hundreds of letters, creating petitions and tweets, appearing at the PEP (Panel for Educational Policy ) for months testifying before multiple Chancellors, speaking at town halls before as many Mayors, getting bids and estimates and reviewing documents and maps and much more.
So let’s raise a glass and toast the real heroes along this long and winding road, starting with three alumni parents ( four, including me!) who led the charge 2017-2020: Theresa Jordan, PTA VP, who wrote the first letter in 2017 to then-Senator Velmanette Montgomery to ask WHY the Trust would not allow us to have a pool, Lissa Wolfe, co-PTA president in 2018, whose political insight and writing acumen ensured we were not just heard, but listened to, and Bill Seery, ex-Bio Rep parent, who stood with us at every turn and every meeting. Other alumni parents, whose contributions of time and talent were notable (and who continue to help Harbor even today) include Kelly Vilar (who secured an endorsement for us just yesterday) Jane Bottner, Beatriz da Costa, Lisa Edstrom, Greg Hagin, Adrienne and Khamahl Murray, Raquel Morales, Jorinda Silverstein, Sunita Woodcheke.
This year we were fortunate to have another exceptional cadre of talented parents, the SEA steering team of Amy Koethe, Amy Koza, Grace Mak, Alex and Cas Stachelberg, and our latest member, Lisa Shapiro (with cameos by PTA President Ian McGrath), who along with diving teacher Lenny Speregen have been fighting non-stop this challenging COVID year to make this happen. (The greater SEA Committee, named below, have taken meetings, sent letters, lobbied, tweeted and overall been simply marvelous. These parents all richly deserve the school’s thanks—for decades to come!)
We want to warmly thank our wonderful principal Jeff, who has been wholeheartedly supportive this most difficult year with his time, energy, and savvy, and may I add that today I was thrilled to hear him assure the Trust that he was committed to stay and embracing the exciting challenge for the years ahead (which parents will be delighted to hear!) Thanks to other teachers who have put in their oar, including Zoe Greenberg, BOP diving instructor who in 2018 was enthusiastic about the potential for diving students, Mauricio Gonzalez, who though Marine Biology might not benefit directly, nonetheless wrote generously and enthusiastically to support throughout, and Rick Lee, Ocean Engineering teacher, who just testified for us last week at CB6. If I have forgotten others, please forgive me—it’s sure been a long road.
But what a rainbow at the end of it!
We are so excited to bring this fantastic extension to our campus which will include many of the long-needed facilities to our growing school. It will include a 25m long (short-course NCAA) swimming pool, a large multipurpose gym/auditorium space with spring-fed floor, state-of-the-art science labs, additional teaching classrooms with 400 seats, the restitution of a library and quiet study space and plenty of storage for diving gear. The building will be designed to be environmentally friendly. We will work closely with the highly regarded School Construction Authority with their unparalleled experience in the management and design of NYC schools to make this happen in the best possible way.
Now to thank our champions and heroes outside the school: Fleet Admiral in this story has indisputably Council Member Margaret Chin, and her able Lieutenant Gigi Li. Theresa, Lissa, Bill, Jeff and I met with Margaret in 2018 (and multiple times afterwards) and she counseled us wisely on how and when, funded us, and never faltered in standing by us, though, as she sits on the Trust board, we can well imagine the pressures on her were great and many. Also, key officials who have generously given this project their full support were Senator Brian Kavanagh, who made us the cover story of his mailings, gave us money for the pool from his state budget and advised every inch of the way, and Speaker Corey Johnson, whose huge gift of a million dollars really put us on the map as an issue worthy of attention and was the catalyst to this success. Brilliant and tireless Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (she will be missed sorely by Manhattan) has supported us in word and deed, and her appointee to the PEP Michael Kraft has been so intelligent in his guidance over the years, and our Assemblywoman Yuh Line Nioh, herself a champion swimmer, saw immediately our need. Our admirable Congressman Jerrold Nadler and his redoubtable chief of staff Robert Gottheim used their clout to gather all elected officials in 2018 to make a public statement to the Mayor urging the facilities to be granted. That was a game-changer as well, as the press took it up and stirred the kettle. We had wonderful advice and help from Janneke House at Senator Gillibrand’s office, and Dan Wiley at the office of Senator Nydia Velasquez, Assembly members John Liu and Deborah Glick, State Senator Addabbo and recently retired Senator Velmanette Montgomery, whose letter to the Trust started the ball rolling in 2017, and Council Members Steve Matteo, Steven Levin, Joseph Borelli (thanks to chief of Staff Frank Mascia), Debi Rose, Eric Ulrich. Our sincere thanks to all of them for their confidence in us and their critical help to make this dream finally happen. We are most grateful for the powerful support of Community Board 1, especially its remarkable Youth and Education Committee chair, Tricia Joyce, who has been tireless and brilliant in her advocacy for our cause. She, along with Tammy Meltzer, Chair, Diana Switaj and Wendy Chapman, are Harbor’s fairy godmothers, watching out for us at every turn. We had advice from Carter Craft and former Harbor Principal Nate Dudley at the start of our efforts and near the end were fortunate to have the help and endorsement of Community Boards 2 and 6 Brooklyn and thank Betty Feibusch (CB2 Youth and Ed) and Suzanne Turet and Mike Racioppo (CB6) for their kind support. (We are linked by shared waterfront interests and see this as a chance to work collaboratively much more in future.)
Curing the lack of infrastructure is a vital stepping stone for the future fulfillment of Harbor school’s promise to deliver marine and maritime education of high quality. To that end, we anticipate starting on the renovation soon (some of you may have already noticed the clearing of the old mortuary building on the side of the Hospital?) Once the designs have been finalized, a process that usually takes 12 months, the buildout will start and could take a minimum 2 more years. So, we are looking at September 2024 as the very earliest possibly move-in date.
We will have an information evening/Town Hall in the next few weeks for parents and teachers to gather ideas and answer questions, so that we can be a very present part of the buildout to make sure we get what we really need in the process. We welcome all builders and architects among you to join the SEA committee as in this next phase we have special need of your expertise and advice in the decisions to be made in building, as we’ve worked too hard and long to allow this to be less than it can and should be.
The above news comes right before today’s last hearing of the ULURP
You can submit written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org within 72 hours of hearing adjournment. )
which will mark a time of significant expansion for Governors Island, and before development takes over, and every inch of the island is spoken for, we are so very grateful to have secured the future of the school with this wonderful gift. We look forward to the PTA having a seat at the table as we re-reinvent Harbor AND Governors Island with the Trust and school leadership in the next decade.
I look forward to sharing more exciting news with you soon, and below, take a bow, all of you who worked this year on the SEA (School Expansion and Advocacy) Committee, as it is your energy and passion that has MADE ALL the DIFFERENCE !
Fairwinds and Following Seas!
Chair, SEA Committee
Emma Lewis Acker, Christian Acker, Renee Alevras, Bridgette Bethea, Suzy Berishaj, David Chang and Lori Hanchin Chang, Donna Coppola, Jessie Cores, Ellen Dobbyn-Blackmore Michelle Eliseo, Naima Freitas, Julie Fussell, Jennifer Grace, Josephine Gonzalez Stacey, Michelle Green, Glenda Hoffman, Enisa Jimenez, Tamara Johnson, Brenda Kelly, Hope Kidd, Elizabeth Kirk, , Kellie Knight, Koko Bas, Angelic Martinez, Louise Mulvihill, Emily Nicolson, Jill Novatt, Caraid O’Brien, Rico Pullini, Julia Ryan & Kane Platt, Maureen Packer, Cathleen Purrazzella, Nilma Quiros, Marjorie Richards, Melanie Rodriguez, Luz Rosas, Alfredo Salamanca, Debra Sito, Steven Sposito, Sophie Staub-Franks, Tracey Watler-Mata.
** 68,000 with the grounds, the building itself is listed as just under 60,998.