Volume 16, Number 12 | Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2003


Law clears way for Hudson Sq. private school

By Elizabeth O’Brien

A recent zoning change for the Hudson Square area has cleared the way for a new private school that is looking to buy loft space at 500 Greenwich St.

On Aug. 19, the City Council approved the rezoning of the southern portion the Hudson Square area from manufacturing to commercial uses. The affected area is bounded by Spring and Canal Sts. from north to south and Washington and Hudson Sts from east to west. Schools are not permitted in manufacturing areas but are allowed under the area’s new zoning, according to David Reck, chair of the zoning committee of Community Board 2.

“That was the only obstacle that was in the way — we’re going ahead with buying the property,” said Robert Golden, the founder and executive director of the Downtown School.

The space at 500 Greenwich St. would house the school for its first three years, said Golden, who previously worked at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. He plans to open the school in September 2004, with 35 students in the sixth grade, and add a level each year until the student body goes up through grade 12.

Currently, there are no private schools accredited with the New York State Association of Independence Schools located south of Canal St, and there are only a handful of public middle and high schools in Lower Manhattan. One notable addition to the roster of Downtown public high schools is Millennium High School, which is scheduled to move to 75 Broad St. this fall.

Golden said that he hoped to open the space, located just north of Canal, to prospective parents as early as late October. The second-floor loft is currently home to the Castillo Theatre, a postmodern, political theater, and the All Stars Project, an organization that creates performance programs for poor children. Those groups have outgrown the 5,000 sq. ft. space and will move to a new location on W. 42 St. this fall, said Roger Grunwald, director of public relations for the All Stars Project.

The theater space needs only minimal renovations before it can reopen as a school, Golden said. The loft has many curved walls and few areas that could be turned into traditional classrooms. But Golden said he likes it that way.

“I want it to look like the Guggenheim,” he said. “I want a sense of flow and that’s what you have here. It looks like a very creative environment.”

The Downtown School plans to retain the 71-seat theater and might open it up to community use on the weekends, Golden said.

David Reck, who lives about five doors up from the school’s proposed site, said that he didn’t expect it to have a large impact on the neighborhood.

“It sounds like a great idea to me,” Reck said.

The Downtown School will charge $18,000 a year for tuition, Golden said. After Labor Day, Golden will hold more informational meetings in the community and will also work to raise the additional $750,000 needed, he said.

Applications for grade six will be accepted starting in September. For more information on the Downtown School, visit the Web site at www.nycdowntownschool.org.

Elizabeth@DowntownExpress.com


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