Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Here for Real: The New PS 51 Set to Open on West 44th Street

 Cup of the Day #125 - "Rising Skyline, Midtown"
India Ink on Used Paper Coffee Cup, by Gwyneth Leech

Needed for over 20 years, discussed and planned for 12, under construction for 3 - and now it is here! 
New York City Public School 51, a.k.a. PS 51, a.k.a. the Elias Howe School, a.k.a. "the Pride of the West Side" will open to elementary students on September 9th, 2013 in a brand new building on 44th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.

This Wednesday morning I had the privilege of an early walk-through with members of the Task Force, a group comprised of the many stake-holders in the new school construction effort: parent, teacher, school administration, community, construction and political representatives. I myself am a PS 51 parent rep. Until now, I had only ever seen the liaison from the School Construction Authority standing in front of an architect's rendering of the new school. And here we were, entering the actual front doors! After so many years of talk, effort and struggle, not to mention the stresses of a two-year relocation to a temporary building on East 91st Street, it was hard to believe it was real. Yet administration and teachers have already taken possession and are busy unpacking and setting up classrooms and offices on every floor, even as teams of workers continue to make their way down the list of finishing items.

Picture if you will the old Elias Howe building - an erstwhile sewing machine factory on 45th Street which housed PS 51 from 1940 until 2011. For gym, auditorium and cafeteria we had one single room, which, by the way was also the local polling station! In the new building there are large, airy and light-filled spaces at every turn: five floors of generously proportioned classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, wide hallways and stairs, a pristine library filled with over 4000 new books, specialized science, art and music rooms, a health clinic, and not one, but two gyms. The second, a gymnatorium houses a fully kitted out theatrical stage. Behind the school is a surprisingly large play-yard filled with light and ringed by sizable trees, and atop the school is a roof playground covered with silver netting. Finally, there is a large separate cafeteria with adequate sound-proofing and a beautiful kitchen for on-site cooking!

What follows are some preview shots of the new spaces, leading off with Principal Nancy Sing-Bock in her office. I am delighted that our family will be returning for fifth grade and we look forward to joining a reinvigorated school community in celebrating our magnificent home. This new school is a  great example of the whole Hell's Kitchen community coming together to make things better for our kids. We extend our warmest congratulations to all who worked so long and so hard and overcame so many hurdles to make it a reality!!

Principal Nancy Sing-Bock in her brand new office on the ground floor.
The only work item on her desk so far: floor plan for the new school!

Christine Keskemeti setting up her 4th grade classroom on the 4th floor.

In awe as we discover the double size gymnasium on the 3rd floor.

A view of the rooftop playground 
from the art room windows on the fifth floor.

Silvery netting on the rooftop playground allows full view of the sky.

 Play equipment lacking for nothing but the arrival of students on Monday, September 9th.

PS 51 is a zoned, neighborhood Pre-K through 5th elementary school with a strong and resourceful principal, a dedicated administration, an energetic and creative teaching staff, and a diverse and genuinely inclusive student body. For more information and to find out how to register, visit

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  1. The new school is fabulous!

    The two gyms are fantastic. The roof-top open space unbelievable. And I was so thrilled to see that the play ground is so much larger than I had imagined.

    It has taken eight years of working together to get this for our kids. Now it is here and we have something to celebrate. This is not just good, but great.

    When I met Nancy Sing-Bock (all those years ago), she told me we were going to get a new school. What a lot of work it took from so many people. And here it is.

    I can't even think of all the people to thank, but through think and thin Melanie LaRocca has stood by this project, always working to get the best for our kids. Thanks to the Speaker for having someone of her caliber available to our community.

    Please spread Gwyneth's Full Brew far and wide so folks can see and enjoy the work that has been done here by so many. When people work together, good things happen. Now let's focus to make it even better for our kids.

    Tom Cayler
    West Side Neighborhood Alliance

  2. What a great post Gwyneth. I am so proud of everyone. I want to thank Christine Quinn for all of her effort and Ms. Sing-Bock and all of you who have made this happen. I am so excited for the students and teachers and families in our community. I can't wait to volunteer!

  3. Nancy Sing-Bock, Proud Principal of PS 51September 7, 2013 at 10:48 AM


    Love the photos! Glad you were there for the walk-through. It definitely took a whole village to get this beautiful new school built! Our students, staff and families deserve to be in the 21st century with a state of art new school building. No more cafetorianasium!

    Can you be there first day of school to take more photos? Thanks so much!!!