In the last couple of years, the leadership of the Nativity Mission Center, a private middle school at 204 Forsyth, left no doubt it was through with the Lower East Side. In a story published in the New York Times in 2010, Rev. Jack Podsiadlo said there just wasn’t as much demand for a school serving low-income kids in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now the Wall Street Journal reports the school, founded in 1973, has sold a recreational space on Forsyth Street to an unnamed investor for $1.7 million.
Administrators told the Journal the same investor might buy the school building itself, which is listed by Halstead for $4.7 million. The developer apparently intends to build a “mixed-use retail and residential” project on the site. While the school looks for a new location, perhaps in the South Bronx or Queens, Podsiadlo quipped that the LES these days has “more French bulldogs in the neighborhood than boys who qualify for the federal free lunch program.”
No one would question that the Lower East Side has gentrified in the past 2o years. But what to make of the notion that there’s little demand here for a school serving underprivileged students? The latest NYU/Furman Center figures show the poverty rate on the LES at 22%, compared with 28% in the year 2000. A decade ago the neighborhood was the 18th poorest in the city; today it’s the 23rd poorest (out of 59 community districts).