P.S 34, also known as the Oliver Hazard Perry School, is more than an elegant old red brick school building on the corner of Norman Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard. Built in the gorgeous Romanesque Revival style, it is in fact the oldest continually used school building in New York and a New York City Landmark. According to some sources the school dates back to 1867 when it was designed by Samuel Leonard, the Superintendent of school buildings in the still independent city of Brooklyn. Leonard Street is in fact named after Superintendent Leonard. These were years when Greenpoint was growing fast. Leonard supervised another addition to the building in 1870 and another superintendent oversaw another addition in 1887-1888. I spoke to the very active PTA in the Spring and a number of parents mentioned a persistent rumor that I have heard over the years, but cannot confirm—that the building may have been a hospital during the Civil War. Walking inside the buildings long hallways, they certainly have the feel of hospital wards. There are no four-walled classrooms, instead the long ward like halls have been divided up, but it is not hard to imagine that the building was once filled with wounded union soldiers.
So who was Oliver H. Perry, you may wonder? He was an admiral and a hero of the war of 1812 and the hero of the naval battle of Lake Erie. When the school was founded, Greenpoint was a shipbuilding mecca so logically the school was named for an admiral just as P.S 31 was named for another naval hero, Admiral DuPont.
The school building might be old, but it does not mean that its curriculum is not innovative. In the Fall the school became New York’s first public school to offer dual-language Polish-English education, which makes sense since sixty percent of the children come from Polish backgrounds. Currently, the classes in Polish and English at P.S. 34 are offered in kindergarten and more than 20 children take advantage of the program. The school is strong academically and was awarded Blue-Ribbon Status. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the kids and their parents are proud of the school’s rich history and continuing excellence.
P.S. 34 is located at 131 Norman Avenue in Greenpoint.