PS 87, established 1895
When PS 87 first opened its doors in 1895, Grover Cleveland was serving his second term as President. New York City consisted of Manhattan and the Bronx, while Brooklyn was still an independent city and Queens and Staten Island were largely rural areas. The NYC subway system was not yet running. Baseball legend Babe Ruth had just been born -- but his New York Yankees did not yet exist!

PS 87 in 1920. (Click to enlarge) Source: New York Public Library

The original PS 87 building,
erected between 1889-1895 as part of District 14, was located at the corner of West 77th Street and Tenth Avenue (now Amsterdam). It was a five-story building with 44 classrooms and a maximum capacity of 1,605 according to the standards of the era, average capacity 1,092. It was built at a total cost of $181,918.33 (about $4,909,612 in 2011 dollars), including $75,542.85 for the site, $67,390.02 for the building itself and $39,009.46 for school equipment.

An addition was made in 1905, including a gym and auditorium. The student body was apparently boys only initially, but by the 1920's and 30's the grades went from 1 to 8 for boys and 1 to 5 for girls, with separate boys and girls entrances to the building.

It cost $4,732.53 a year to keep the building maintained and heated (by wood and coal) -- an amount that current PS 87 custodian Charles Romer claims is still the annual custodial budget!

PS 87, rebuilt 1954

PS 87, 1954. Image courtesy of Tom Mela.

The current PS 87 building was erected from 1952-1954 behind the existing structure. Rosario Candela and Paul Resnick were the architects of the building, which was constructed for an estimated $1.6 million ($13.4 million in 2011 dollars). When it was completed, students were enlisted to help move books and supplies from one building to the other. The old building was razed and the current Tecumseh Playground (a.k.a. "Metal Park") spaces were created.

PS 87 Lobby Plaque, 1954
Some notable PS 87 alumni:
  • Henry Winkler (Actor and author of the Hank Zipzer series of children's stories based on life at PS 87)
  • Jordan Peele is an actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He is best known for starring in the Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele and for his five seasons as a cast member on MADtv.
  • Charles Strouse (Composer and lyricist)
  • Brian Greene Columbia University theoretical physicist and string theorist, host of the 2011 PBS NOVA Series, The Fabric of the Cosmos.
  • Erica Jong is an American author and teacher best known for her fiction and poetry, and particularly for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying. The book became famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality.
  • Mike Nichols (Director, writer, producer, comedian)
  • Gerald Schoenfeld (late Chairman of the Shubert Organization)
(List updated 2011)

Another "alumnus" of PS 87 is Earl Carroll, lead vocalist for the doo wop group The Cadillacs and later with The Coasters. In later years Earl made a successful life for himself as a custodian at PS 87. He was a beloved figure whom the children called "Speedo". Carroll was chosen to be the subject of a children's book, That's Our Custodian, one of a series. The publicity helped him to revive his performing career. He became a mainstay of the PBS series honoring Doo Wop, hosted by Jerry Butler.
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One Family under the Sun
Today, PS 87 is a progressive upper west side neighborhood "school without walls" that continues to serve as a vibrant and highly respected New York City public school with students from Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. PS 87's curriculum includes a dual-immersion (English/Spanish) class, "collaborative team teaching" special education classes, and cluster programs including music, art and computers. Students are exposed to chess, ballroom dancing and other special programs. The PS 87 afterschool program has been recognized as one of the best in the country. PS 87 is truly "One Family under the Sun".

A collection of articles from the past and present are available in this PS 87 history section, along with photos, anecdotes and other information. We are eager to add to this section -- if you're an alumnus of PS 87 and have information or photos to share, please let us know!

Send a note to history@ps87.info.

Statistics on the 1895 building courtesy of Charles Romer.
Research: Paul Garrity