November 8, 2012
Of all of the city’s 1,750 public schools, few were more exposed to Hurricane Sandy than the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School.
Schools sit near the waterfront across the city, and many of them were damaged by the storm last week. But the Harbor School sits on Governor’s Island, and so it is surrounded by water, smack-dab in the center of New York Bay.
Usually, that location is a boon: Harbor School students learn how to maintain boats, farm fish, and deep-sea dive. Last week, though, the site made the school vulnerable: When Sandy’s surge came, it would be coming straight at the school.
It took school officials two days to survey the entire scene — but what they found was reassuring, according to an email message they sent to supporters late Thursday afternoon.
“Fortunately for Harbor School, trees went out of their way to fall away from our building and the water stopped just inches from our doors,” said the message, which was signed by Executive Director Murray Fisher and first-year Principal Edward Biederman. They said a weekend of preparation had protected the school’s fleet of boats, as well.
That’s not to say there was not any damage. Photographs uploaded to the school’s Facebook page on Thursday show that a storage closet was flooded, its contents washed away or destroyed; the construction site for the school’s new technology center was strewn with debris; and a fish tank whose power had gone out had to be evacuated.
Still, the two school leaders said they were optimistic that students would be able to return to the school on Monday, when Mayor Bloomberg had vowed to reopen the city’s schools after a week of missed days.
Yet the school still has not reopened in its home because Governor’s Island, which is otherwise closed for the season, still does not have power. On Wednesday, Harbor School students reported to Stuyvesant High School for the first time, posting an attendance rate of nearly 75 percent, high among relocated schools.
Students who posted messages on the school’s Facebook page this week said they were eager to return to school, which moved to Governor’s Island in 2010 after seven years in landlocked Bushwick.