Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

Grades: 9-12

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)    

School Stats


How many students graduate in 4 years?
How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
Average daily attendance
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
From the 2019-20 School Quality Guide and 2020-21 NYC School Survey


Number of students
644 Citywide Average


Low-income students
Students with disabilities
Multilingual learners
From the 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

How many students were suspended?
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
How many students say that some are bullied at their school because of their gender or sexual orientation?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey and 2019-20 NY State Report Card

Faculty & Staff

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
Years of principal experience at this school
7 Citywide Average
Number of students for each guidance counselor or social worker
157 Citywide Average

Teachers’ Race/Ethnicity

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
Are teachers effective?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey, 2019-20 School Quality Guide, 2019-20 NY State Report Card, 2021 Guidance Counselor Report and this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Advanced Courses

Which students have access to advanced courses at this school? Learn more



Computer Science

Not offered in 2019-20



Advanced Foreign Language

Not offered in 2019-20

AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science


AP/IB Math or Science



Not offered in 2019-20
From unpublished, anonymized data from the 2019-20 school year provided by the New York State Education Department, brought to you by

College Readiness

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
From the 2019-20 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
From the 2020-21 FAFSA data released by Federal Student Aid, brought you by
How many graduates of this school received Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding to attend a NYS college?
How many of those TAP recipients made it through college? Learn more
From unpublished, anonymized student-level data for the class of 2011-12 provided by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) in coordination with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), brought to you by
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.


From the 2021 High School Directory

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


550 Short Avenue
New York NY 10004

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


Principal: Jeffrey Chetirko

Parent Coordinator: Ronni Ettinger


Other Details

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? No

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