Read a brief(ish) history

of The Urban Assembly

New York Harbor School,

now celebrating 15 years!


The New York Harbor School

10 South Street, Slip 7

New York, New York 10004

 212 458 0800


In the fall of 2003, The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School opened its doors on the fourth floor of the Bushwick Campus High School to 125 freshmen who lived almost exclusively in the surrounding neighborhood in Brooklyn.  At the time, the New York City Department of Education looked to Harbor School to help improve the community’s local graduation rate, which had hovered for too long at 24 percent.  Offering a maritime-themed academic program, despite its land-locked location, Harbor School infused the standard New York State Education Department Regents-based curriculum with high-interest, water-related topics and then brought those topics to life by exposing students to local water bodies, including New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River, and the Gowanus Canal.  By 2010, Harbor School had improved the local graduation rate by more than 200 percent.


In 2010, Harbor School moved to its new home on Governors Island and expanded its efforts to admit students from all five boroughs of New York City.  Today, Harbor School serves a diverse group of four hundred and thirty-five students, who come from neighborhoods across the city, both public and private middle schools, and whose life experiences and interests bring them to a high school focused on marine science and technology.  All current students at Harbor School enroll in traditional New York State Regents-based academic courses and one of six career and technical education (CTE) programs of study.  As they prepare for college and train for industry, students cultivate an ethic of environmental stewardship and learn about and work toward protecting, conserving, and restoring the environment.


In the Summer 2002, NYHS Founder, Murray Fisher,  poses the question to Richard Kahn of Urban Assembly:


“What about a maritime high school?”


Come fall, Murray finds Nathan Dudley, who becomes the founding principal, and Roy Arezzo, who becomes a founding teacher.  Waterkeeper Alliance and South Street Seaport Museum come aboard as founding partners.  The team of students, parents, educators, and non-profits craft a proposal to New Visions for Public Schools for approval for a “Brooklyn New Century High School.”


In the Spring of 2003,  the school proposal is accepted along with an implementation grant from the Gates Foundation, The Open Society, and the Carnegie Corporation.

EARLY YEARS, 2002-2010

FALL 2003

Harbor School opens in a storied high school building in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. addresses students on the first day of school. The first year’s class comprises 125 students, 90 percent of whom fall “below” or “far below” grade level in reading and mathematics.  The faculty and staff consist of eight dedicated teachers and founding principal, Nathan Dudley.

APRIL 2007

Renovation begins on an old Coast Guard infirmary building on Governors Island: the school’s future home.


The New York City Department of Education awards an “A” rating to Harbor School on its Progress Report. The school holds Commencement on Governors Island for the first time.

FALL 2004

With the original freshmen class moving into its sophomore year and a new crop of 9th graders entering the school, student enrollment more than doubles. Murray and Richard create a proposal to move the Harbor School to Governors Island, which is the first of dozens of proposals for relocating the school to the waterfront over several years.

JUNE 2007

Harbor School celebrates its first Commencement at the South Street Seaport Museum, graduating more than three times as many students at the school it replaced. Dennis Walcott, current Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, addresses the graduating class.


Harbor School embarks on its first year of summer school on Governors Island, successfully combining the standard summer school curriculum with maritime and environmental programs.

FALL 2005

The sophomores become juniors, and they begin planning in earnest for the college application and admission process. The city issues a Request for Proposals for redeveloping Governors Island. Murray forms a Harbor School Advisory Committee, which will become the New York Harbor Foundation.

JULY 2007

Harbor School and Stroud Water Research Center organize a three-week trek for six Harbor School students and six Sidney High School students from Delaware County, New York to explore New York’s water supply, on foot and by boat, from the source in the Catskill Mountains to the taps of the city. The trek is documented in a video, "From Mountaintop to Water Tap."

FALL 2009

To align more closely with the The Urban Assembly’s network of small college-preparatory public schools in New York City, Harbor School changes its name to The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School.

FALL 2006

Harbor School joins The Urban Assembly’s network of schools in the newly formed the New York City Department of Education Empowerment Zone. Following a highly competitive process, Harbor School wins the bid to become the first tenant of Governors Island, located in the heart of New York Harbor.


Harbor School graduates its second class, with 90 percent admitted to colleges, including Cornell, Skidmore, SUNY Maritime, and SUNY Stonybrook.


Construction and renovations on Building 550 on Governors Island, the school’s new home, is completed.


FALL 2010



Classes begin in the school’s new home on Governors Island.  Students travel to school by ferry for first time.  "Classroom on the Water," a 30-minute documentary about the Harbor School, premieres on NYC LifeTV and later goes on to win an Emmy.

The First Annual Harbor School Regatta brings more than 400 participating sailors, spectators, and revelers to the Post-Regatta BASH to support New York City’s only public high school dedicated to maritime and

environmental education. Commandant of the United States Coast Guard Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. and his wife return to Governors Island for the first time since they lived on the island years prior.  His visit includes a tour of Harbor School and begins the school’s active partnership with U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York.


Following a two-year application process, the school’s request for membership in the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) is approved the AAUS board, and Harbor School becomes the first public high school —and one of only two high schools—to be named members of this prestigious group, which comprises 138 other member organizations.

Students, teachers, and administrators, joined by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, UFT’s Michael Mulgrew, EPA’s Judith Enck, Council member Margaret Chin, and State Senator Daniel Squadron and many supporters at a “Net Cutting” ceremony, celebrate the school’s opening on Governors Island. Students present their oyster project to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and teleconference their presentation to EPA offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Edison, New Jersey.


Hurricane Sandy devastates New York City and cripples the telecommunication service to Governors Island. Remarkably, Governors Island itself and Harbor School’s building survive the storm without lasting damage.

APRIL 2011

The schooner, Spirit of Massachusetts, ties up at Yankee Pier on Governors Island to begin a month-long series of programs for the school’s students and staff, including day trips and a series of weekend overnights.


Harbor School wins the Rising Star High School Award from Blackboard and two of the school’s founding teachers, Ann Fraioli and Roy Arezzo, are awarded the Sloane Award for Excellence in Teaching in Mathematics and Science for the innovative course, Introduction to New York Harbor.

APRIL 2012

Chancellor of New York State Board of Regents Meryl Tisch visits Harbor School and says, “This is what CTE should look like.”


Seniors in the Class of 2012 participate in the first annual “Harbor Up All Night” college overnight on Governors Island.

JULY 2012

Harbor School breaks ground on the Marine Affairs, Science, and Technology Center, located at Pier 101 on Governors Island.

JUNE 2012

Founding Principal Nathan Dudley celebrates the school’s sixth Commencement and is promoted to the rank of Deputy Network Leader, supporting a network of 25 schools within the New York City Department of Education.


President Bill Clinton addresses supporters of New York Harbor School at the school’s Annual Benefit, championing the work of the school and its efforts to empower students through a long-term, multi-agency environmental action project: Billion Oyster Project.


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WindfallA sudden unexpected rush of wind from a mountainous shore which allowed a ship more leeway.

10 South Street, Slip 7

NY, NY 10004

 212 458 0800


10 South Steet, Slip 7   NY, NY 10004