posted 2011-10-05 13:00:10

East Harlem Welcomes Hunter College

Photo by Jenady Garshofsky
Photo by Jenady Garshofsky
Lois & Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work Relocates Uptown with Hope of re-vitalizing community

Jenady Garshofsky

Editor in Chief

East Harlem has welcomed the newest member to the community. An architectural vision was made a reality on the corner of 119th street and third avenue, the new home for the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work.

The new campus will house the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies' libraries and archives as well as the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity.  The Graduate Center Apartments will also be located at the new location.

The intersection outside the school sparkled with the reflection of sunlight off of the school's massive windows.  The state of the art construction offers an industrial design highly fit for an operational institution.  On the brightly lit terrace of the school's second floor auditorium, the formal ribbon cutting ceremony was held.  With a backdrop view of East Harlem, Jay Hershenson, Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations, welcomed Hunter College president Jennifer Raab to the podium.

Beaming with achievement, Raab said, “We celebrate this extraordinary project with a remarkable new year. The vision of community engagement will bring Hunter into the community and the community into Hunter.”

The first floor contains a library with Apple computers and private study rooms.  There is also an art museum, and an extravagant and spacious high-ceilinged lobby.  The second floor hallways are also lined with Apple computers as well as technology-equipped classrooms and labs.

In 1964, Samuel Silberman, a successful businessman, dedicated $4 million to create a school of social work that would address New York's problems and improve living conditions for New Yorkers.  He wanted the school to help solve problems of health, poverty and education. In 1968 the school opened on 79th street and on its 50th anniversary, Lois Silberman made a $30 million donation to build the new East Harlem school.

Lois Silberman made this donation eight years after the death of her beloved husband.  She seemed excited to finally be sitting on the stage of the new Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work three years following her donation.  She said that she felt Samuel was looking down at the project and she knew that he would be pleased with its progress.

Indeed, Raab was very pleased with Ms. Silverman, “[she] gave [a] gift to Hunter to transform not just Hunter, CUNY, but the entire city”, she said.

The ribbon cutting ceremony also served as a dedication and a promise to enrich the local community with the skills and resources the school offers. With a host of social problems such as poverty and low test scores, East Harlem is falling bellow the status quo, “the statistics highlight the necessity for change,” said Philip A. Berry, vice chairperson to the Board of Trustees.

This is “not a relocation,” Raab  said, “but a commitment to change.”  Raab continued, “the walls that typically divide classrooms can be broken down. It's not just a beautiful building, but a physical mission, the true beauty of the project is the idea.”

Jose Serrano, the New York State Senator, offered his gratitude on stage to everyone who worked on the project. “Thank you Hunter College for making today a reality, for [this] world class education[al] institution to anchor East Harlem. Now we have a school to address [these] issues ... When you think of CUNY, you think of community”.

In closing remarks, Jacqueline B. Mondros, the Dean of the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work, declared, “This school will make [an] exceptional opportunity count every day.”

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein was scheduled to attend, but was unable to make it to the ceremony.

“The technology compared to the 79th street location is much better and more accessible,” Nadia Kishunlal, an accelerated 18th month clinical practice student, said from the comfort of one of the new couches as she leaned back and crossed her legs.  “I also like that there are more places to lounge and relax in between classes.”