History & Vision

School Vision

PS 87 is a public elementary school located in District 3 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A highly regarded educational environment, the school has been the recipient of many awards and honors in recent years. As its popularity has grown, and due to a recent increase in catchment population and boundaries, the school’s enrollment has increased from about 450 students in the 1980s to about 850 students today.

PS 87 offers families an ethnically and economically diverse student body that is reminiscent of a miniature United Nations. Within this heterogeneous setting, students learn and flourish from a cadre of unusually creative, dedicated and talented teachers. Working with interdisciplinary units centered on core themes, PS 87 teachers develop curricula based on established guidelines. Several of our staff work as mentor teachers to their younger colleagues and have been actively involved in professional development programs. A number of teachers have been videotaped in their classrooms and used as models at teaching institutions throughout the country.

In addition to an unusually diligent teaching staff PS 87 boasts a uniquely active and committed parent body. The schools Parents Association works tirelessly throughout the year to raise funds, supply classrooms and support special programs and events.

PS 87 is a Community Studies/Classroom without Walls, participating in the District 3 Magnet School program. Here students interact with their local community in person, on paper and through technology. In addition, they experience the benefits of partnerships with New York City organizations to help them develop a sense of their individual roles in the community. PS 87 is a community of learners, encompassing children, staff and parents. We take pride in our diversity and strive to embrace a social compact of respect and acceptance. A central element of our vision is an effective system of formal and informal communication linking and serving all members of the community.

We are committed to:

  • An ethnically diverse student population.
  • Multicultural education.
  • Heterogeneous grouping of children.
  • A child-centered environment within classes.
  • Combining support for innovation with respect for proven methods, such as applying experiential learning to real-life situations.
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment which allows risk-taking on the part of students and teachers.
  • High expectations for all members of our community.
  • Encouraging children to become self-directed, independent learners.
  • Faculty who take pride in their profession, who trade information and resources and are open to parent involvement.
  • Curriculum enhancements include: music, dance and drama specialists; an innovative art program; a science resource center; a richly diverse library; various cultural presentations by outside organizations.
  • An active parent body that supports the staff and works tirelessly both in and out of the classroom to build and maintain a school of excellence.
  • Our joyous, energetic, creative children who are the most important piece of the PS 87 puzzle.

In addition to a heterogeneous mix within the student population, PS 87 also houses an innovative Dual Language Program which offers Spanish in an immersion setting to Spanish speaking students who need to develop their English language skills and to English speaking students who want to learn Spanish as a second language.


PS 87, established 1895: When PS 87 first opened its doors in 1895, Grover Cleveland was serving his second term as President. New York City consisted of Manhattan and the Bronx, while Brooklyn was still an independent city and Queens and Staten Island were largely rural areas. The NYC subway system was not yet running. Baseball legend Babe Ruth had just been born — but his New York Yankees did not yet exist!

PS 87 in 1920. (Click to enlarge) Source: New York Public Library

The original PS 87 building, erected between 1889-1895 as part of District 14, was located at the corner of West 77th Street and Tenth Avenue (now Amsterdam). It was a five-story building with 44 classrooms and a maximum capacity of 1,605 according to the standards of the era, average capacity 1,092. It was built at a total cost of $181,918.33 (about $4,909,612 in 2011 dollars), including $75,542.85 for the site, $67,390.02 for the building itself and $39,009.46 for school equipment.

An addition was made in 1905, including a gym and auditorium. The student body was apparently boys only initially, but by the 1920’s and 30’s the grades went from 1 to 8 for boys and 1 to 5 for girls, with separate boys and girls entrances to the building. It cost $4,732.53 a year to keep the building maintained and heated (by wood and coal) — an amount that current PS 87 custodian Charles Romer claims is still the annual custodial budget!

PS 87, rebuilt 1954: The current PS 87 building was erected from 1952-1954 behind the existing structure. Rosario Candela and Paul Resnick were the architects of the building, which was constructed for an estimated $1.6 million ($13.4 million in 2011 dollars). When it was completed, students were enlisted to help move books and supplies from one building to the other. The old building was razed and the current Tecumseh Playground (a.k.a. “Metal Park”) spaces were created. The playground was rebuilt several times including the 1987 version discussed in this NY Times article. The current version of “Metal Park” was build in 1997.

Tecumseh Playground aka “Metal Park”

Some notable PS 87 alumni:

  • Henry Winkler (Actor and author of the Hank Zipzer series of children’s stories based on life at PS 87)
  • Jordan Peele is an actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He is best known for starring in the Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele and for his five seasons as a cast member on MADtv.
  • Charles Strouse (Composer and lyricist)
  • Brian Greene Columbia University theoretical physicist and string theorist, host of the 2011 PBS NOVA Series, The Fabric of the Cosmos.
  • Erica Jong is an American author and teacher best known for her fiction and poetry, and particularly for her 1973 novel Fear of Flying. The book became famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality.
  • Mike Nichols (Director, writer, producer, comedian)
  • Gerald Schoenfeld (late Chairman of the Shubert Organization)

Another “alumnus” of PS 87 is Earl Carroll, lead vocalist for the doo wop group The Cadillacs and later with The Coasters. In later years Earl made a successful life for himself as a custodian at PS 87. He was a beloved figure whom the children called “Speedo”. Carroll was chosen to be the subject of a children’s book, That’s Our Custodian, one of a series. The publicity helped him to revive his performing career. He became a mainstay of the PBS series honoring Doo Wop, hosted by Jerry Butler.
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We are eager to add to this section — if you’re an alumnus of PS 87 and have information or photos to share, please let us know!

Send a note to history@ps87.info.