The Urban Academy’s Harbor School, located on Governors Island, is poised to launch an $80 million expansion that will eventually double its size. The first step is the renovation of the adjacent Building 555 (at right), which is slated to become the Harbor School’s new annex, and will contain 32,000 square feet of new classrooms.
This phase of the project was recently reviewed by the Landmarks Committee of Community Board (CB1), because it is located within the legally protected Governors Island Historic District. Built in 1938 as housing for Army families (in the era when Governors Island was a military post, closed to the public), Building 555 will be renovated with a new entrance, modern windows, and updated ventilation systems, in a project budgeted at $31 million and scheduled for completion by the start of the fall 2025 semester.
“Parents from the Harbor School want the School Construction Authority to find money for a rehabilitation of Short Avenue,” the street between the Harbor School’s current building and the new annex, explained Jason Friedman, who chairs CB1’s Landmarks & Preservation Committee, at the Board’s June 27 meeting. He added that the street “will become a kind of corridor between the two buildings.” This proposal is still under discussion.
Separately, the School Construction Authority is also designing a new building for the Harbor School, which will house a gymnasium, swimming pool, and multiple research laboratories. This phase of the expansion is slated to cost approximately $50 million, and is projected to open in mid-2026.
“This is an incredibly important project and building,” observed Patrick Kennell, who chairs CB1’s Land Use, Zoning & Economic Development Committee, at the June 27 meeting. “The Community Board worked very hard to make this happen, and it’s an important piece of that puzzle.”
Also earmarked for the Harbor School expansion is Building 515, a 61,000 square-foot former hospital built in 1935 from a 1902 design by the highly regarded architecture firm of McKim, Mead, and White. Subsequently converted into enlisted bachelor’s housing during the island’s centuries-long use as a military post, Building 515 was gutted in 1980, but its historic exterior was preserved.
The Harbor School became the first year-round tenant on Governors Island, after it was transferred from federal to local control in 2003. The school’s mission is to provide a college-preparatory education built upon New York City’s maritime experience, with a focus on environmental stewardship.