It's a very New York kind of school facility: two completely different
elementary schools sharing the same space.
The boxy, utilitarian structure was built in 1959 to house P.S.198, named
after Isador and Ida Straus to commemorate the Congressman and Macy's
department store owner and his wife, who both died in the 1912 sinking of
Since 1988, the building has shared space with another school, in a
tradition that has rapidly increased under the reformist scheme of Mayor
In this case, it's the Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education (P.S.77)
that has been given space in the old Straus building?including the part that
contains the front door.
Lower Lab is mostly composed of white students (69 percent) and Asian
children, who are driven in from all over Manhattan.
Straus is zoned, which means it has to serve any child from the local
neighborhood. For that reason, it's overwhelmingly Latino (47 percent) and
black (24 percent).
Over the main entrance, the old sign for Straus remains, but Straus kids are
told to go around to the back of the building.
Even Straus staff members are instructed by the NYPD School Safety Agent at
the front door to use the rear entrance.
An African-American attorney, Granville Leo Stevens, who showed up at the
front door recently on official Straus business, says he was only
"grudgingly" allowed to enter the front door after he complained to the SS
"It's the craziest thing I've ever seen," Stevens says.