Torres invests $2.5M into school’s rooftop garden

Torres invests $2.5M into school’s rooftop garden
Councilman Ritchie Torres (seventh from right) joins TAPCo principal Ron Link (fifth from left) during groundbreaking ceremony.
Courtesy of Ron Link

A school on Webster Avenue is getting a first-of-its-kind renovation.

The Theater Arts Production Company School (TAPCo) has broken ground on a rooftop garden and soundstage that will be the first for any NYC Department of Education school.

On Friday, March 28, Councilman Ritchie Torres joined TAPCo principal Ron Link and others to put the ceremonial shovels in the ground to launch the project.

The project’s origin dates back to 2015, when Torres announced the allocation of $750,000 for the garden and soundstage. That number grew to $2.5 million with additional support coming from the 92nd Street Y as well as AT&T.

Since that time TAPCo students had created and submitted designs of the rooftop to Torres’ office with help from the 92nd Street Y.

“I was so taken by the vision and the passion of the students that I couldn’t help but say yes,” said Torres. The councilman also mentioned how he strictly instructs his staff to never guarantee a finanical allocation during a proposal, but this was simply too compelling to turn down.

“The sooner that we put the tools in the hands of the children and young people, the better off things will be,” said Link. “We are so thrilled this is happening,” he added.

The school plans to use the garden to grow produce for the school’s cafeteria and Part of the Solution’s food pantry services down the street, said Link.

TACPCo students in the school’s gardening club explained to Torres and others how the garden will enhance their hands-on learning when built.

The garden will also provide chances for interdisciplinary educational opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math fields.

The school’s technology club looks to create a state-of-the-art production studio, incorporating video and audio production along with editing within the soundstage’s space as well.

“Our teachers are working in a cross-curricular fashion to make the academics relevant,” said Link.

“The rooftop garden and performing space will offer even more opportunities to do that, as well as providing beautiful greenspace in a neighborhood where it’s lacking,” he added.

Other students performed numbers from Little Shop of Horrors, the production the school is currently performing and talked about their great experiences with the school and what this rooftop will mean.

TAPCo already focuses on incorporating STEM in student projects from creating a music video about exponents or building stage set designs.

The school and its students intend to push hands-on learning along with the new rooftop.

“The school had incorporated smaller projects in past years to offer students a taste of what will come with the eventual rooftop garden and performing space, which will offer opportunities for interdisciplinary learning,” said Ron Link.

Torres commended the persistence of Link and his students to propel this project forward, calling this a ‘perfect intersection of public and private.’

“We have to think of the arts not as an afterthought but as an essential element of public education,” said Torres. He also mentioned how TAPCo, and schools like it, also deserve equal amenities to the most privileged schools throughout the city.

The completion date is April 2019.

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