Beloved Jackson Heights middle school
Written by Nadia Habib
Intermediate School 230 plays a vital role in its surrounding community of Jackson Heights, Queens. The school is located within the second most crowded school district in New York City. Jackson Heights is home to a large number of immigrant families who rely on public institutions like I.S. 230. Due to overcrowding, the school is split between two buildings. The older structure, dedicated in 1998, is dedicated to middle school, specifically seventh and eighth grades. Enrollment was increasing so quickly that the school board petitioned to tear down a nearby mansion so as to build an addition, which was erected in 2013. The new building is a slightly smaller structure of four stories, as opposed to the original buildings five, and is now dedicated entirely to sixth graders. Not only does the school contribute to the fabric of the community physically, but more so, the school’s...
Written by Nadia Habib
Intermediate School 230 plays a vital role in its surrounding community of Jackson Heights, Queens. The school is located within the second most crowded school district in New York City. Jackson Heights is home to a large number of immigrant families who rely on public institutions like I.S. 230. Due to overcrowding, the school is split between two buildings. The older structure, dedicated in 1998, is dedicated to middle school, specifically seventh and eighth grades. Enrollment was increasing so quickly that the school board petitioned to tear down a nearby mansion so as to build an addition, which was erected in 2013. The new building is a slightly smaller structure of four stories, as opposed to the original buildings five, and is now dedicated entirely to sixth graders. Not only does the school contribute to the fabric of the community physically, but more so, the school’s dynamic response by means of expansion demonstrates the school’s integrity and commitment to a growing community.
I.S. 230 is busy. Both buildings are open weekdays and weekends. At times, the original building serves as a community center for various immigrant groups in need of congregational space. For example, on any given Saturday, you may see a Bangladeshi spring concert, while simultaneously, around the corner you may hear the not so distant noise of a Dominican parade. Neighborhood fea markets, held on school grounds every weekend, is where the multi-ethnic crowds gather to barter, buy, and sell from each other. Though the school is placed within a peaceful residential neighborhood, it is only 3 blocks from the bustling shopping district of Jackson Heights. ackson Heights is known for its mixture of immigrant shops and restaurants. The children of I.S. 230, being part of the Jackson Heights neighborhood, belong to one of the most mixed immigrant populations in the world. This condition allows them to directly experience diverse cultures within their walking radius.
I.S. 230s appearance has been given mixed reviews. The intricate facade of the older building makes it stand out. Designed in a Postmodern style, it incorporates the use of multiple pediments and a triumphal arch. Neighbors identify the contrast between the older building and the rest of the neighborhood by referring to the formers use of color and style. The new school building, on another hand, is rather more Deconstructivist in its use of a playful cube shape, a community-borne concept contributed during a local visioning process. Residents and preservationists including Daniel Karatzas met with the neighborhoods councilman to critique the new building’s design. Of primary concern of were more successfully blending the new building with its surroundings, and creating a structure that felt welcoming.
The new building consists of smaller classrooms and looks more like an elementary school than a middle school. The hallways and stairs are painted with bright colors and bring in natural light and air. The walls in the hallways are clad with stickers and arts and crafts from the children. One can sense that the building was designed with young people in mind as it is has a playful, creative atmosphere. It allows for a less stressful transition out of elementary school, and into a new environment with new expectations. By contrast, the older building has less color and natural light, and the classrooms are slightly larger than the ones in the new structure. The design of each building articulates the difference in approach to the respective resident age groups. The contrast between buildings suggests an idea of metamorphosis going from one building to another, alluding to the transformation of the graduate. I think a design that considers a developed sense of maturity and responsibility is appropriate and encouraging for the student body.
Sixth grader Ryaan Rahman says he likes attending I.S. 230 because he is surrounded by supportive teachers and friends. When asked which building Ryaan prefers, he quickly responds saying the new one, because it is “better, cleaner, and cooler.” Apparently, the children perceive the older building as dark and stuffy, sentiments that are easily appreciated given the lack of windows. Color and light notwithstanding, Rahman insinuates that the schools are still overcrowded and that his peers must shove past one another to make it to class between bells. Similarly, his sister, Tanjila Rahman, who attended the school six years ago, students shoving through the corridors in effort to make it to class. Ryaan suggests that the new building incorporates elements designed to alleviate this problem.
I.S. 230s original school building is located on the site of a former hospital. It was called Physicians’ Hospital, and the medical practioners who owned the hospital lived in grand houses that were built in the areas now containing the annex and the running track. The residences and the hospital were built in the 1950s. A wealthy doctor and his wife, a well-known children’s writer, first owned a neo-Tudor mansion that was replaced in 2013 by the schools annex building. Once the doctor passed away, a Buddhist institution purchased the house in the 1970’s and lived there for over twenty years. The monks lost the property in a tax battle, and the house remained empty for a few years. Afterwards, the city claimed the site with eminent domain. As it had fallen into disrepair and become a nuisance to the neighborhood, the city decided to clear the house and build an annex for the overcrowded Intermediate School 230. To the surprise of many, several neighbors, including preservationis Daniel Karatzas, rallied against the mansions demolition. After the issue was debated in public hearings, the city chose to proceed with plans to expand the school. Another doctor;s residence was replaced by the schools running track. Although the sites owner had initially determined to build a condominium in its place, thanks to community agitation, the city rules against erecting high-end residential on the site, and purchased his land instead. These efforts are testament to the neighborhoods values, namely keeping its fabric intact, and its childrens education at the fore.
Identical signs on the school buildings read: “Excellence Expected, No Excuses Accepted.” I.S. 230 is tough on its students and sets their goals high. Despite the overcrowdingl, students tent to achieve high grades on state examinations. The school is well known in both Jackson Heights and Woodside, and many parents send their children there irrespective of living in the school zone. I.S. 230 also has one of the highest acceptance rates for the specialized New York City high schools, sending about 30-40 students every year.
The faculty and administrators are invested in the school and students. Despiite his busy schedule, current principal Ronald Zirin took time to speak with me at length about I.S. 230s history and plans for the future. Zirins attitude reflects the facultys investment in and approach to the school community. Starting at the top, the faculty proritize the success of the schools students, even far removed alumni like myelf.
Intermediate School 230 is a place that matters. In the few years since the annex building opened, the school has yet again exceeded capacity. Whenever this happens the school is in threat of fire hazard, which should neither be overlooked nor can it be easily resolved. To combat this issue, the school has proposed to build and second annexed structure in the place of the running track. It is expected that a school will eventually be built on this parcel, but that depends on the City of New York and the support of the neighbors, who are debating the value of competing uses of limited spaces - classrooms versus open spaces to for the students and greater community to play. (May 2016)
Harshon, Nicholas. "Proposed School Location Currently Mansion." NY Daily News. N.p., 12 June 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
Rosenberg, Eli. "One of Queens Most Overcrowded Districts Gets Welcomed Addition." NY Daily News. N.p., 13 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.
"Interview of I.S. 230 Principal." Interview by Nadia Habib. Mr. Zirin. Jackson Heights, New York, 2 Apr. 2016. Personal Interview.
"Interview of Jackson Heights Conservationist." Interview by Nadia Habib. Daniel Karatzas Jackson Heights, New York, 29 Apr. 2016. Personal Interview.
"Interview of I.S. 230 Current Student." Interview by Nadia Habib. Ryaan Rahman. Jackson Heights, New York, 3 May. 2016. Personal Interview.
"Interview of I.S. 230 Alumni of 6 Years." Interview by Nadia Habib. Tanjila Rahman. Jackson Heights, New York, 3 May. 2016. Personal Interview.
I attended I.S. 230 in eighth grade and instantly fell in love with the school. Overcrowded or not, I so appreciated the faculty’s deep faith in its students. And, that the teachers would go the extra mile to push their students to learn and perform above and beyond the city’s standards. When I attended, approximately 1,100 students were matriculated, even though maximum capacity was 700. The school’s policy of open admissions meant that all students living within the designated school zone could attend, despite fire hazard. The teachers at I.S. 230 certainly shaped me for the better. I was fortunate to experience love and respect from my teachers. Many of these same teachers still teach in the school today, and continue to inspire the students, and push them towards excellence.
One of my main goals is to commemorate what the place once was. Many of the students may never know what the buildings used to stand on and where they go to class every day. I think knowing that story will help create an even stronger sense of community, and help keep the community together. This school deserves recognition for the endless amount of effort given in educating immigrant children in one of the most crowded environments in New York City. Despite all these challenges and some setbacks, the school is doing well, and will continue to do so.