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$325K for Harlem School's Garden Still Unspent 3 Years Later

By Emily Frost | December 16, 2016 2:54pm | Updated on December 19, 2016 9:44am
 P.S. 180 in Harlem wants to turn an unused space into a garden and relaxation space. A $325,000 grant was made for the project in 2013, but the work hasn't started yet. A rendering of the proposed garden is shown above.
P.S. 180 in Harlem wants to turn an unused space into a garden and relaxation space. A $325,000 grant was made for the project in 2013, but the work hasn't started yet. A rendering of the proposed garden is shown above.
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Mabbott Seidel Architecture

HARLEM — A school that received $325,000 from a local politician to turn its overgrown and unused outdoor space into a garden still hasn't reaped the rewards three years later, local education leaders said.

P.S. 180, also known as Hugo Newman College Preparatory School, wanted to create a "tranquility zone" in its 1,100-square-foot outdoor courtyard where students could garden, do yoga and enjoy the fresh air.

Parents rallied behind the project and requested the money, and in 2013 City Councilwoman Inez Dickens provided $325,000 for the project, Community Education Council 3 member Dennis Morgan said at a meeting Wednesday night. Morgan is also the school's PTA co-president.

However, no work on the garden has been done in the three years since the grant was given, he said, noting that the school was told a year or two ago that the work was on the School Construction Authority's (SCA) agenda.

"The SCA should have the assignment to do the work, but the work hadn’t started," Morgan reported to his colleagues. "The time is really really running short now."

The garden project had been a dream of P.S. 180 parents even before the grant was made. In 2012, they enlisted David Mabbott, a parent at the school, to help them design the project, and he agreed to wave his 10 to 12 percent fee to work on it.

The school "is on a mission to turn an empty, weed-filled lot at the center of the school into a focal point of a community effort to turn blight into beauty," Mabbott's firm, Mabbott Seidel Architecture, said in a March 15, 2012, post on its site that includes an accompanying rendering.

The unused space is only accessible through a guidance counselor's office, so the design proposal addresses that by adding a point of entry from the cafeteria, Mabbott previously told DNAinfo.

"The schoolyard garden was designed to give students critical outdoor access that not only would improve cafeteria lighting and ventilation, but also be a living classroom for learning food cultivation for healthy eating, exploring wildlife and the environment and as an arts and culture family center," the firm explains on its site. 

Neither the Department of Education nor Dickens's office responded to requests for comment.