New York Construction Report staff writer
Funding totalling $6 million was announced this week for the rehabilitation of (Former) Colored School No. 4 in Manhattan, dedicated as an individual landmark. It is the only known surviving building in Manhattan that exclusively served Black Americans during mandated racial segregation in New York City public schools.
The school closed in 1894 but remained New York City property and was used for a variety of purposes, including by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) as a satellite office and locker facility, from 1936 through 2015.
DSNY will stabilize and rehabilitate the building, which has been affected by water infiltration and general age-related deterioration. Engineering investigation and design work is currently underway, and the full rehabilitation is expected to be completed in 2027. DSNY will work with city agencies and local stakeholders to identify an appropriate long-term use for the facility, following the renovation.
“The Department of Sanitation is proud of our role protecting New York City’s neighborhoods, and in this case, that also means protecting a neighborhood’s history,” said DSNY Commissioner Tisch. “Mayor Adams has made a critical investment in preserving an important piece of Black history in New York City, and ‘New York’s Strongest’ will do our part to make sure that future generations know both about the harm caused at this site and about the resilience of the New Yorkers who resisted it.”
The building was constructed between 1849 and 1850 on West 17th Street in Manhattan and became one of New York City’s racially segregated public “colored schools” in 1860. It served the Black community that lived in Manhattan’s West Side until it closed in 1894.
Many of the school’s Black leaders, teachers, and students rose to prominence both during and following their time at (Former) Colored School No. 4, making their mark in education, music, transportation, public service, and social justice.
“At a time when states are trying to erase Black history, we’re celebrating it,” said New York City Councilmember Erik Bottcher. “Saving this building has been one of the Chelsea community’s top priorities.
“This $6 million capital infusion will repair the roof and protect the building from the water infiltration that has been causing deterioration. Landmark designation will ensure that the building will be protected from demolition or significant alterations, preserving its architectural features and historic character for future generations.”