Mark Teixeira Goes to Bat for $85 Million Charter School
By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira has agreed to help raise $10 million toward the creation of a new Harlem charter school, saying he loves the way it plans to use baseball to help kids learn.
"If one of these kids happen to become a major leaguer that's great but what we are all here for is to make sure they get great educations and they have an opportunity to go on to college and do whatever they want," said Teixeira, appearing at a press conference for Harlem RBI charter school Monday.
"These kids are going to be the future leaders of this community."
Teixeira has already donated $1 million to the new $85 million school in East Harlem and agreed to raise $9 million more.
The move is part of a public and private partnership between the city and the private sector to collect a total of $62.5 million, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday during a press conference on the group's baseball field on East 100th Street between First and Second aves.
"If you want to participate in the great American Dream, you need a good education," Bloomberg said.
Harlem RBI, a nonprofit youth development agency that runs activities like baseball clinics and educational programs to help inner-city youth, will raise the rest of the funds for the school.
The 13-story, 150,000 square foot, $85 million building will will be built on the grounds of what is currently a parking lot at Washington Houses at East 104th Street between Second and Third Avenues. The facilities will house Harlem RBI's existing DREAM Charter School, which will grow in its new location to serve 450 students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. The location will also house 90 units of affordable rental housing. The school is currently located inside another public school. Ground will be broken in 2012 and the building is scheduled for completion in 2014.
Harlem RBI will also consolidate its administrative nonprofit offices at the new building.
This is the second new charter school to be built inside city public housing developments in Harlem.
At St. Nicholas Houses in Central Harlem, the city is contributing $60 million and partnering with Harlem Children's Zone and the New York City Housing Authority to build Promise Academy I, which will house 1,300 students in grades K through 12 and will open in the fall of 2012.
Bloomberg said the move is part of a continuing effort to build charter schools on public housing.
"NYCHA properties happen to have pockets of a scarce and really valuable resource in our city: underutilized land," Bloomberg said.
NYCHA Chairman John Rhea said that the new development will benefit East Harlem and families in Washington Houses. NYCHA will have the option to purchase the affordable housing units for $1 after the expiration of the 15-year-lease. Blake Hobbs Park, on the grounds of Washington Houses, will also be renovated by Harlem RBI as part of the project.
"This shows what can happen when innovation is allowed to grow freely in the city," said Harlem RBI Executive Director Rich Berlin. "When we started this project, people said, 'you are crazy'."
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the project "a dream come true."
While there has been resistance to the project at St. Nicholas Houses, the project at Washington Houses has garnered some community support. Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito said the project demonstrates a way to use NYCHA land to benefit the community.
"We are a community that's in need of good education and good affordable housing so when you have a project that combines both, its wonderful," said Community Board 11 Chair Matthew Washington.
Mildred Maneiro, a lifelong resident of Washington Houses, whose 8-year-old grandson attends Dream Charter School, said her neighbors are in support of the project.
"It's wonderful because the kids need a new school,"she said "Where the school was going was a parking lot and dumpsters. To bring in a building that kids and residents can enjoy is better."
Teixeira said he already has five partners in his effort to raise $10 million and he's confident about reaching his goal.
"It's not easy ... but we are going to keep at it," Teixeira said.