Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Healthy Schools: Increasing and Improving Citizen Participation in NYC School Siting Process

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

November 9, 2011








To relieve overcrowding in New York City’s public schools, the School Construction Authority implemented an aggressive plan to construct 56 new school buildings over five years.

Many of these school sites may be contaminated with toxins such as lead, arsenic, and a range of carcinogenic and volatile organic compounds. These toxins can jeopardize the long-term health of children and school personnel in serious ways. The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) has experience empowering community boards, parents, and other stakeholders to get information and ensure school building are safe, healthy learning environments. NYSHealth awarded a grant to NYLPI to target school districts where new school sites were being considered and work in those neighborhoods so that parents, teachers, city officials, and other community members were educated about the school-siting issues and empowered to advocate for themselves.

Without proper remedial action and oversight, the practice of siting schools on property contaminated with toxins can jeopardize the long-term health of children and school personnel in serious ways. Children spend significant portions of their days inside school buildings and are uniquely vulnerable to, and affected by, toxic exposure. Under this grant, the NYLPIworked in those neighborhoods to ensure city officials and their constituents are educated and empowered to advocate for themselves. This project included three main components: development of a comprehensive, accessible school siting manual, creation and implementation of a training for Community Boards, City Council members and other key stakeholders, and organization of a Healthy Schools Strategy Summit to share effective strategies on school health and safety.


Getting Parents Information on Environmental Health Hazards in New York City Public Schools
In early 2011, students at Bronx elementary school P.S. 51 started reporting to the school nurse that they had headaches. Enviromental testing of the school site revealed dangerous levels of toxins, but the reports were too technical for community members to understand, and parents were left confused, fearing for their kids’ health and safety. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest worked with the parents and community of P.S. 51 to help them learn to navigate the complex school siting system and advocate for the information they need to ensure school buildings are safe, healthy learning environments.  Learn more.