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School Unveils $40M Renovation of Historic Stable

By Emily Frost | September 5, 2012 3:34pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Stephen Gaynor School, an independent elementary and middle school for students with learning differences, unveiled its expanded facility inside a former shuttered stable on West 89th Street Wednesday.

The new middle school is the product of a larger $40 million renovation that will bridge the existing space at 148 West 90th Street with a new space inside the former Claremont Carriage House and Stables at 173-177 W. 89th St., according to the school's Director of Communications, April Starling.

The new middle school space includes 11 classrooms, five of which are now ready for 55 new students, with a total of 77 new students joining the school once all classrooms are complete. There are currently 300 students attending the school campus, which extends from West 89th to West 90th Street, just east of Amsterdam Avenue. 

Middle school students, whose parents pay $49,600 a year, will start at their new school Thursday. 

The landmarked stables operated for 115 years before closing in 2007; they were originally slated to be developed into nine luxury condos and a single-family house, designed by the architectural firm PKSB.

But, according to the Head of School, Dr. Scott Gaynor, the economic downturn halted the project and provided an opportunity for the school to later purchase the space for $12 million. 

Gaynor, whose grandmother Miriam Michael co-founded the school with Yvette Siegel-Herzog, said they launched a capital campaign to raise money for the renovations in 2010, determined to seize the opportunity.

"We're a school with a strong mission that gets strong support," Gaynor said.

Rogers Marvel Architects worked with the school to create an early childhood education center, which opened this past January for 3 to 6-year-olds with learning challenges. Additional classrooms, offices, a library, and a new cafeteria double the size of the adjacent existing middle school. There's also a kiln and a digital photo studio, said Starling.

A new arts center, with a 275-seat theater and performing and visual arts classrooms, and a play roof will be part of the next phase. 

The school serves children from 3 to 14 whose "primary issue is of academic nature, ruling out behavioral issues," said Starling.

Gaynor said the increase in arts facilities and programming is important to students' success.

"When the whole child is nurtured, he or she is more likely to take academic risks," he said. 

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer is both impressed and relieved by the project.

"We all cried when the stables closed – it had been there for 3 generations," she said. "We were quite upset that it was going to be turned into condos."  

Brewer said she was "delighted" by what the new space can offer to children with learning challenges and because "it’s also a beautiful building that the public can use."