Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

Grades: 9-12
550 Short Avenue
New York NY 10004
Phone: 212-458-0800

Our Insights

What’s Special

Engaging, hands-on programs both on and under water

The Downside

Ferries only run every hour; few electives and activities that are not marine-focused.

It's easy to forget you're in New York City at the Urban Assembly Harbor School on Governors Island, where kids trade subways and city streets for scuba dives and boat trips. Students may specialize in aquaculture, underwater engineering, boat building, boat operation or biology research, and receive CTE (career and technical education) certificates that may help them get jobs after high school. One student we spoke to wanted to be a science journalist, while another was doing an internship with a fiberglass company.

The main building houses academic classes, administration and some CTE labs. A smaller building by the water is home to other CTE programs, as well as offices for the school's partner organization, the Billion Oyster Project.

The enthusiasm at Harbor is infectious. Students gush about their research projects. Teachers gobble lunch standing up between meetings and class preparation. In this rather informal atmosphere, everyone is called by his or her first name.

Some of Harbor's strengths are also its weaknesses. The incredible location comes with an awkward commute, and students who miss the 8 a.m. ferry must wait a full hour for the next one. The last boat home is at 6 p.m., so Parents Association meetings are held at a school in Manhattan. Another downside: With such an extensive range of marine-related classes and activities, there's little money or time for other extracurriculars or electives. The school offers art freshman year only, and one year of French.

Freshmen take an introductory course that integrates marine policy, environmental stewardship and fieldwork before choosing their CTE specialty in 10th grade. Students take Regents exams, and academic classes follow a standard sequence.

Jeffrey Chetirko took the reins in 2015 after a revolving door of three principals in four years. He was principal at the Urban Assembly Institute for New Technologies in Harlem, but he jumped at the opportunity to move closer to his home on Staten Island. For his part, Chetirko says he's there to stay: "This will be my last principal position, because I never want to go anywhere else."

Chetirko brought in a new dean and enforced rules when he arrived, such as limiting how far students could go on the island. He hired about a dozen new teachers after a big exodus. On our visit, students were calm and seemed happy to be there. A parent we met at the high school fair said she was optimistic about the school's future and felt things were calming down after a few years of instability.

While the marine-focused activities are the school's centerpiece, core academic classes seemed less inspiring. Chetirko hopes to bring the excitement of the CTE programs into other classrooms. He also recognizes that the school has always been good at supporting students who need extra help, but needs to find more ways to challenge top students.

“We need to keep pushing our students,” Chetirko said by phone. “Some students bypass specialized high schools to come to our school because they want the maritime courses, but are not feeling as challenged in our academic classes.”

Now that the atmosphere has improved, teens feel safe, and the staff is stable, Chetirko is working on consistency and shared language and practices schoolwide. For example, teachers set reading goals in all classes, not just in English. Students retake tests to improve performance. The focus on the yearly plan is “improving questioning and discussion techniques and assessment practices across the Harbor community.”

SPECIAL EDUCATION: About half of all classes are team-taught.

ADMISSIONS: The school is unscreened, and admission is determined by lottery. (Ella Colley, April 2016; updated via phone interview, 2018)    

Read more

School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2019-20 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
86% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
37% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
79% Citywide Average

From 2019-20 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
2% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
76% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

How many students graduate in 4 years?
82% Citywide Average
How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
48% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
41% Citywide Average
How many graduates stay enrolled in college for at least 3 semesters?
67% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
87% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
38% Citywide Average

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
66% Citywide Average

For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

From the 2021 High School Directory

Marine Science and Technology
Admissions Method: Open
Program Description:

Students choose from one of the following programs: Aquaculture, Marine Biology Research, Ocean Engineering, Marine Systems Technology or Marine Policy & Advocacy. Students may receive corresponding certifications for each program, such as Geographic Information System certification or US Safe Boaters License.


Language Courses

French, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP World History: Modern, AP Calculus AB

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on NYCDOE’s MySchools
NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location


Financial District (District 2)
Trains: R Line, W Line, 1 Line, 4 Line, 5
Buses: M15, M20, BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4, X12, X14, X17, X17A, X19, X3, X31, X42, X5, X8, X9


Jeffrey Chetirko
Parent Coordinator
Ronni Ettinger

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school is in its own building.
Metal detectors?

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