City Limits Investigates, a quarterly magazine published by the think tank City Futures, spent its fall ’09 issue investigating ZIP code 11237 (a.k.a Bushwick), home to the geographic center of New York City.
Breaking down life in the neighborhood with the categories “Crime,” “Jobs,” “Schools” and “Housing,” Jarrett Murphy and Neil deMause examine the ways that 11237 has evolved under the Bloomberg administration. The results are a little like The Wire, albeit in black-and-white-magazine form: a detailed picture of an urban community’s ecosystem.
From the section on education, a discussion of the High School for Social Justice, one of the four small high schools that now occupy occupy the old Bushwick High School building:
“I think it’d be lying to say that we aren’t happilyt surprised by our results. It’s a great thing for the neighborhood that hundreds of graduates are coming out of here every year,” Rush, now the principal, says. But the unique mission of the school has been hard to integrate. “The first year, we wrote this interesting [curriculum] that became sort of mothballed because in ’03 there was the ramp-up curriculum and all sorts of mandates that came down for [Chancellor Joel] Klein that made it impossible to do some of the things we wanted to do,” he says.
So the school had to find places in students’ schedules to squeeze in its mission. Students engage in weekly advisory sessions where social justice is discussed along with traditional school-guidance issues. Ninth- and 10th-graders engage in social-action projects through these advisories. Some of the campaigns are very practical. “The kids were complaining about the facilities of Bushwick High School when we first started,” Rush says. So their first action project was called Bathroom Justice. “The tagline was ‘Potty Power’ or something like that. A lot of bathrooms had been given over to storage or safety-agent locker rooms. It had been narrowed down to two or three for whole buildings,” he recalls. The project resulted in opening up a couple more restrooms and getting better supplies for the rest.