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Harlem Children's Zone coming to public housing

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Harlem Children's Zone has plans to build a school in the middle of a housing project.

The new building, scheduled to open fall 2011, is going to be placed in St. Nicholas Houses and will be available to 1,300 students if approved. Admission is granted through a lottery and students living in Community School Board District 5, where St. Nicholas is located, will have preference.

Construction of the five-story, 130,000-square-foot structure is slated to begin in the summer and will be built on 129th Street, near Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Currently, 129th Street stops in the middle of St. Nicholas Houses. Upon completion of the school, the street will be extended.

The new building will also house a community center offering programs and services for people of all ages, whether they attend the school or not. Students in grades K-12 will use the facility.

"This is a very exciting proposal," HCZ spokesman Marty Lipp said. "We are providing services to the community, and seven days a week, there will be school or some kind of programming going on."

The new building will house students who are currently enrolled at two other facilities that HCZ occupies, P.S. 175 and Promise Academy, located on 125th Street and Madison Avenue.

Students at Promise Academy II, who are currently being housed at Choir Academy, will move to the 125th Street and Madison building.

In August, HCZ will hold a lottery for 3-year-olds for admittance to kindergarten in two years. Those admitted will be enrolled in the Harlem Gems Pre-K program during the two-year wait. Overall, there will be approximately 100 slots per grade.

There will also be "set-aside" admissions for siblings of students who already attend HCZ and for No Child Left Behind. Preference will then be given to students who live in the school board district containing St. Nicholas Houses.

The new building will create 100 permanent jobs. HCZ currently operates a community center in St. Nicholas Houses.

"We've had a relationship with NYCHA and have been talking over the years and working closely with the residents," Lipp said. "NYCHA suggested building the school and community center."

The new building comes with a price tag of $100 million. The city will pay $60 million and HCZ will privately raise the remaining $40 million. While the building will be owned by the city, HCZ will serve as the building's operator.

Lipp said, "This is bringing a really great resource into the neighborhood and into the project. Even though some of the older kids won't be in the school as students, there will be programs available to work with high school kids like enrichment programming and college prep."

HCZ has been holding meetings with residents about the school. The latest meeting took place on Wednesday night.