Photo by Steven
The Archdiocese of New York announced this week that 12 Catholic schools will cease operations at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, including Immaculate Conception on 13th Street between Avenue A and First Avenue.
This is the last Catholic grade school (serving students K-8) in the East Village.
There was a shift in demographics and lower enrollment at the schools that are closing, according to officials. This was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Archdiocese reported spending between $500 million and $700 million to support the schools closing, which they say is unsustainable.
The school dates to 1864 (find a PDF with history here), part of the Immaculate Conception church when it was at 505 E. 14th St. The church, on the north side of 14th, was demolished in the 1940s to make way for Stuy Town.
The school's current building was completed in 1945. Per Wikipedia:
In 1943 the parish took over the chapel and hospital buildings now known as Church of the Immaculate Conception and Clergy Houses, completed in 1896 to designs by Barney and Chapman and formerly owned by Grace Church. This existing facility was expanded with a four-story brick convent and parochial school at 415-419 E. 13th St. and 414-416 E. 14th St. ... and completed in 1945.
The archdiocese shut down St. Brigid School, founded in 1856, at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. The St. Brigid School building remains on the corner of Seventh Street and Avenue B. In 2022, a handful of NYC public school teachers who received medical or religious exemptions to the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate were working remotely from the school.
What will happen with all these schools now?
I’m sorry to see this — some neighbors starting sending their kids here when Covid led to the public schools being shut down. They were very happy with the experience (but have since moved to the suburbs). Given the other closures in the area I’m surprised this school isn’t enrolling enough students. I wonder if the awful “flea market” mess on that block of 14th contributed to the problems.
@Anon. 9:33 - Dunno about the other schools, but am guessing this one will be demolished and new and much-needed luxury high-end condos will be going in. (Please note - sarcasm here.)
I think it's the inevitable result of a few factors.
1. Demographic shifts. Declining religious affiliation, declining % of Catholics within the religiously affiliated.
2. The building was built according to the sensibilities of a country that just won a war and could get oil at $1 a barrel, but expected a wave of new students in 4-5 years. I wouldn't be surprised if this building was still on #6 fuel oil.
3. Increased private school competition for the students whose parents can pay full tuition. They can no longer charge a premium for the brand.
That last reason is particularly telling. The school doesn't have to pay a mortgage or property taxes, and they still don't believe they can compete with other private schools long term.
@Sim City Mayor: Charter schools are the actual competition because they are free.
NYC needs a school voucher system. The public schools are failing and the only chance of a decent education for many of the working class in the city are the Catholic schools
it's all about money. they are selling off tons of valuable properties. Not just schools, but churches as well. All for the sake of building apartments for the wealthy. As if there aren't enough of those sitting empty already. Thanks to our wonderful Governor and Mayor for not putting laws into effect that stop buildings from going up for the rich. And those "affordable housing" lottery apartments are a joke! so let's not go there.
Can’t recall a single person who attended a catholic grade school and didn’t reject the religion afterwards, or at least the majority of Catholicism.
2:34 I have to disagree with you as to the reason the church is selling off property after property. It's to pay for all the sexual abuse settlements the church as been involved with over the last 10-20 years. Huge settlements require huge amounts of money! Plain and simple.
In regards to 4:21 PM. Right on the money my friend.
I attended Catholic school out west for a few years during the late 80's as an adolescent boy. It was quite an experience. I fled Catholicism as a young man when I was denounced by the church and disowned by my mother for being gay, which eventually enabled me to become an unabashed atheist. Almost all of the kids I grew up with also abandoned Catholicism, either embracing agnosticism, atheism, or Buddhism. Not one person I know that I grew up with remained a Catholic. Some were sadly abused sexually and scarred for life. I don't have a ton of good memories of the church or its teachings in class or in mass even. It was a lot of fear mongering, shaming, guilt, and hatred. My personal overall experience wasn't great. What I will say is like any other private educational institution, the bottom line is money, which is derived from exorbitant tuition, and acquiring as many students as possible to fulfill a quota. I am not surprised the dwindling of Catholic schools here and everywhere else in the US. The cost is too high and its history of horrific molestation and physical assaults against minors going back decades if not centuries is too much to ignore and overlook.
My kid went to ICS for two years, one of them the pandemic, because of a Department of Education fiasco (thanks deBlasio). It was a good experience. Much more affordable than other private schools and far more concentration on core subjects than the local public middle schools. The religion teacher had no problems that we aren't Catholic and enjoyed arguing theology without any proselytization.
I think this has to do with both seriously declining demographics, there are far less school age kids in this neighborhood than in past eras, and the payouts for the abuse scandals.
A good school. And the uniforms looked cool, though the middle schoolers may have felt otherwise.
As a possibility for what might be done with/to these schools, note that after the Archdioscese closed Our Lady of Pompeii School in their last rounds of school closures in 2020, they arranged a 20-year lease of the space to the Great Oaks Charter School, (though I don't think they've relocated there yet.)
Whether the Archdioscese of New York finds folks to lease these spaces or they sell them of entirely to developers, it sometimes really feels like they want to get out of the business of education, doesn't it?
This area is now more a frat-boys-rent-an-apartment (preferably in a building with a party roof) neighborhood than it is a "family" neighborhood. I know I would NOT have raised kids here. So yes, the demographics are changing.
Further, for generations Catholic grammar schools were VERY affordable, b/c they were staffed by nuns - and nuns didn't get paid (other than having a place to live & 3 meals a day). Now Catholic schools have to hire teachers, which means paying salaries & benefits. Big difference!
I went to Catholic grammar and high school. Sorry to disappoint but I was not molested nor abused and received an excellent education as did many of my (successful and well-adjusted) friends who I am still in touch with. I grew up in a blue-collar household and Catholic school was affordable. My daughter went to Catholic grammar school, high school and college all of which were affordable. She is now a chemistry teacher in the NYC public school system.
I agree that the church is probably selling off all these properties to pay for sexual assault law suits. Sad but true. As in every profession and walk of life (priest, police, politics, etc.)there is good and bad.
Sorry to see the diminishing of the Catholic Church and the destruction of the schools that gave so many a great education.
Myself, and many family members and friends went to Catholic grammar school. Excellent education, nuns were cool, a lot of homework. Never heard of any sexual abuse of any kind from anyone. I don't doubt, however, that what's been reported in the press about abuse is not valid. I do doubt that the Church selling off their school properties is directly linked to paying off lawsuit victims. Like any business times change and these school closings are due to a lack of students and a lack of nuns as well who don't required a weekly pay check. I'm quite sure the Church has insurance as well as a team of lawyers, bankers, and financial advisors to sort out the abuse claims. The Church has all sorts of assets besides real estate, including stocks, bonds, cash and other instruments. Their empire may be shrinking but they're not going out of business, or the poor house, any time soon.
I went to NYC catholic grammar and high schools in the 1970s and 1980s, which was a vastly superior education to anything the city had to offer. Not just on the education quality, but on teaching respect, discipline and community. The decline in the number of catholic schools is economic, but not any of the economics suggested above. Historically, the financial support provided by the archdiocese was not dollars, but supplying the building, a captive audience of students from the parish, and free teachers in the form of nuns, priests and other clergy. The infrastructure largely was maintained by pro bono sweat equity from parents that painted the classrooms every summer, repaired the roofs, floor, gym, plumbing, etc. All of this meant that a school with 800 students was run with less than 20 salaried employees, nearly all of whom were parents of current or former children in the school with a vested interest in the school's success.
This also meant the cost was accessible to pretty much anyone. My grammar school in the mid-1970s cost about $400 per year, or $800 per family regardless of the number of kids. High school was $1,000 per year. Now, the nearly complete absence of non-salaried clergy teachers, parents unable or unwilling to volunteer or otherwise contribute to the school and parish, unattached or insolvent parishes, and attendees not connected to the school through its church and community make running any independent school in NYC financially unworkable at any reasonable cost. There is a reason that the NYC private schools cost $70,000/yr, even with massive external philanthropic support. NYC spends over $30,000 per student in public schools, which does not include enormous infrastructure and capital spending.
Yes!!! Thank you for a positive post on this topic.
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