NEW YORK (AP) As awestruck teens explored their new facilities, the first school created in lower Manhattan since Sept. 11 opened Sept. 5 on the 13th floor of an office building less than a mile from Ground Zero.
The governor, mayor and several other public officials called the opening of Millennium High School and the dedication of a residential tower in Battery Park City a symbolic renaissance in the neighborhood days before the anniversary of the attacks.
But 15-year-old Ali Elreda couldn’t stop looking at the plush orange couches, six dark armchairs in a circle in the high school’s “meeting alcove,” the new desks and computer labs.
It “doesn’t really look like a school,” Elreda said after touring the six classrooms and open study areas with walls painted bright orange and white.
The high school, the first to open in lower Manhattan since Stuyvesant High School in 1992, will give preference to neighborhood residents. Just more than 200 students in grades 9 and 10 will attend classes on the 13th floor of the building, which also houses telecommunications firms and a tobacco shop. By 2005, officials said, they hope to have 500 students in grades 9 through 12 on three floors of the building.
“It is clear that lower Manhattan is on its way to becoming the great mixed-use community we envisioned,” said Madelyn Wils, the chair of Community Board 1 who spearheaded an effort to bring a school to lower Manhattan. Officials said they want to help retain the neighborhood’s residential population and ease some families’ commutes to public schools.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC) provided a $3-million grant to fund the new school, while other foundations made several private donations, including $1 million from the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
LMDC spokeswoman Joanna Rose said $10 million has been raised so far for the school — although she wasn’t sure how much was provided by the city — and said more funds need to be raised before the school can expand.
City school officials said the renovations cost $5 million for each of three floors.
Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured the facilities with several of the school’s newest students.
Andrew Erb, 14, said he thought the bright colors on the walls would help him do his work better. At his previous school, “the whole school was green.”
The school opened on Sept. 8.
Construction also began Sept. 5 on a new 27-story high-rise building in Battery Park City in one of the first major construction projects approved in the neighborhood since the attacks.
The 450,000-sq.-ft. Solaire will follow the authority’s “green guidelines” to be more environmentally friendly, using 33-percent less water than comparable buildings and solar panels to provide a small percentage of the building’s electricity.