(Former) Colored School No. 4 is Only Known Surviving Example of Racially Segregated School in Manhattan
On May 23, 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Jessica Tisch, and New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) Chair Sarah Carroll announced $6 million in funding for the rehabilitation of ‘(Former) Colored School No. 4’ in Manhattan, which LPC voted to designate as an individual landmark earlier that day.
(Former) Colored School No. 4 is the only known surviving building in Manhattan that exclusively served Black Americans during the troubled period of mandated racial segregation in New York City Public Schools. Spanning the period between the Civil War through the post-Reconstruction era, the site is an important reminder of racially segregated education in New York City and illustrates how education afforded crucial opportunities and skills to Black students as they struggled against the discrimination and inequities that were part of their daily life. The Adams administration’s decision to invest in the building’s rehabilitation will ensure that this history is never forgotten.
“As the second Black mayor in New York City history, the significance of this landmark designation is not lost on me, and I am proud we are investing $6 million to rehabilitate (Former) Colored School No. 4 so that this painful, yet important, piece of history is preserved,” said Mayor Adams. “Historic sites like this are crucial reminders of those who came before us, whose courage and ambition helped shape our city and chart the course to becoming the incredible city we are today. We stand on the shoulders of the young men and women that attended this school, and while they may be gone, I am honored to ensure they will never be forgotten.”
(Former) Colored School No. 4 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. The school served the Black community that lived on Manhattan’s West Side until it closed in 1894. It remained New York City property and was used for a variety of purposes, including by DSNY as a satellite office and locker facility, from 1936 through 2015. LPC and DSNY have collaborated throughout the designation and budgetary process, and the funding announced today by Mayor Adams will enable DSNY to 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.