Greenwich Village Nursery May Close After It Emerges That Neighborhood Is Not Poor

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Photo: The Children's Aid Society

Downtown parents who thought they snared the golden ticket when they got their kid into the Children's Aid Society's nursery school in Greenwich Village got a shock yesterday after hearing that it may be closed and the valuable real estate sold.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is among those who take their tots to the swanky Sullivan Street school, which is much loved for its laid-back vibe, not to mention the fact that tuition is $12,000 a year versus $32,000 at the Little Red School House, a few blocks away. The school draws from a sampling of downtown families with parents in the arts, media, and restaurant industries.

Yesterday, families were told in an e-mail:


We have been pleased to be a part of the Greenwich Village community for more than 100 years, and have tremendous pride in the great early childhood, nursery, arts, after school, and summer camp programs that are currently offered there. Children's Aid has been dedicated to helping the poor children of New York City thrive since 1853, and we constantly struggle with difficult decisions about which services are most closely aligned with our mission.

We thought it was important to take the unusual step of informing you, as potential members of the Nursery School next year, that we are considering putting the Center up for sale. This is not a final decision, but is under serious consideration.

Parents were soon gathering to discuss the news on street corners and in neighborhood supermarkets. "Can you fucking believe it? Where are the kids going to go to school?" one mother said.

The Children's Aid Society has a mandate to serve poor children, said Chief Operating Officer Bill Weisberg, and the board feels there is not enough justification to keep operating a nursery school and owning real estate in ritzy Greenwich Village. The Philip Coltoff Center, as the nursery school is known, is located in the ninth-most-expensive Zip Code in America, according to Forbes.

"This is rotten, I know," Weisberg said in a tense meeting with parents on Wednesday.

Parents with babies strapped on and with toddlers at their feet got weepy at the meeting when a teacher who has been at the school for eleven years revealed she had been homeless and CAS gave her an opportunity to turn her life around. She was devastated the school would close and that she was losing her job.

Some parents speculated that NYU, which is planning an ambitious expansion that would add 6 million square feet to its campus across the city, is a potential buyer of the school property. ("We don't comment on real-estate transactions," an NYU spokesman told Intel. "Before they happen, anyway.")

The organization's board will vote on December 16 whether to sell the school. Directors said if a decision was made to sell the buildings, it was likely that the nursery school and other programs will operate through June 2012.