Governors Island will expand the New York Harbor School, doubling its campus footprint

Bigger and Better

Governors Island will expand the New York Harbor School, doubling its campus footprint

New York Harbor School at Governors Island. (King of Hearts/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

New York City’s Governors Island is heralded for its expansive park-like landscape, various art ventures, luxury glamping experience, and its latest plans which will redevelop a section of the former U.S. military outpost into a climate-focused education and research hub. While many of the island’s former buildings, residences, training grounds, and forts shuttered their doors long ago, the island remains home to a number of established tenants, including The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School–a technical high school dedicated to marine research and environmental studies.

The school, which currently occupies 80,000 square feet spread across two buildings within the Governors Island Historic District, will now expand its facilities. New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the plans yesterday, explaining that the campus enlargement will double the school’s footprint, adding two more buildings, one of which will be a new construction.

“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 in a press statement. “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 new school building will be the first built on the island within a development zone since the island, accessible only via ferry, was delegated to local control in 2003. The design for the new facility has not been announced yet, however, a statement released by the Mayor’s office indicated that renovation work “will demonstrate bold sustainable and resilient design as outlined in the trust’s goals for the Climate Center and the island’s overall transformation.” Notably, the new building will house a “competition-sized” swimming pool, gymnasium, and new research laboratories.

“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 of The 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.”

Under the expansion plan, a joint partnership between the Trust for Governors Island, the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), Building 555 will also undergo renovation and restoration work. The New York Harbor School became one of Governor Island’s first year-round occupants when it set up its college preparatory curriculum in Building 555, a landmarked brick building on the western edge of the island, constructed in 1938 to house military families. Restoration of the existing building will accommodate an additional 32,000 square feet of learning space.

The hands-on learning program offers a number of maritime- and marine-focused courses, including aquaculture, marine biology research, marine policy and advocacy, marine systems technology, ocean engineering, professional diving, and vessel operations. All of the disciplines fall in line with the planned objectives for the redevelopment of the southeastern portion of the island into the Center for Climate Solutions, a lofty proposal first announced in late 2020, after a scheme to convert the old dormitories into a mixed-use, residential-oriented development was tossed aside.

The proposal will construct state-of-the-art research and laboratory facilities on Governors Island, which will focus on developing and providing climate solutions for New York City and beyond. A Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) released last summer solicited education institutions looking to set up operations on the island. It garnered interest globally, with four finalists announced in December 2021—the City University of New York and the New School; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Northeastern University; and Long Island’s Stony Brook University—who are now refining their proposals in a subsequent Request for Proposals.

Both the Harbor School expansion and Center for Climate Solutions are components of Mayor Adam’s Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery, a plan announced in March that outlines initiatives for resurging the New York City economy following the pandemic.

AN will follow up with developments on the school expansion as they are released.