Harlem happenings: de Blasio breaks ground for Urban Empowerment Center and renames PS 368 the Bill Lynch School

Mayor Bill de Blasio had a busy day in Harlem on Thursday where he took a victory lap following the announcement of the Universal NYC Baby Bonds.

On June 17, beginning on West 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, the mayor joined in the groundbreaking of the Urban League Empowerment Center. This site will provide a 400,000-square foot space that will serve as both the headquarters for the National Urban League and include the Museum of the Urban Rights Experience, showcasing the fight for equality.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is excited about the new baby bonds program. Photo by Dean Moses

“We all know that it’s more than just an office building. The new, nearly quarter of a million-dollar Urban League Empowerment Center will house New York State’s first museum dedicated to civil rights, affordable housing, cultural space, and provide job opportunities for the Harlem community,” said Marc H. Morial the President and CEO of the National Urban League.

Posing with golden shovels, de Blasio wasted little time in commenting on the freshly announced NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan, which includes Universal NYC Baby Bonds that directly looks to confront the racial and generational wealth gap by expanding savings plans to every single public school kindergarten student during the next school year.

This initiative will both open accounts and put a minimum of $100 into every account.

“The idea of savings accounts to promote the opportunity for young people to eventually go to college and to inspire their families. The idea of baby bonds as a way of making a profound and early and ongoing investment has been talked about a lot. New York City has decided it is time to make this a reality. Starting in September every kindergarten student in New York City will get a baby bond account started for them,” de Blasio said to a round of applause.

After commemorating the groundbreaking for the National Urban League, de Blasio joined the official renaming of Hamilton Heights School PS 368 on 1750 Amsterdam Avenue alongside first lady Chirlane McCray, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, Rev. Al Sharpton, and others after former Deputy Mayor William Lynch Jr. 

The mayor shares his memories of William Lynch Jr .Photo by Dean Moses

Speakers described Lynch’s spirit and his grass roots dedication to making change. Lynch’s character was said to be inspirational, brilliant, and a teacher who helped mentor so many. Mayor de Blasio credited Lynch for his wisdom and foresight, stating that the former deputy mayor was someone who saw New York City for its greatness and the power of people to make change.

“But Bill understood, even at that early moment in the story, that he was creating generations and generations of leaders ahead, and that takes a vision that few of us are blessed with,” de Blasio said.

The mayor and first lady share a kiss. Photo by Dean Moses

Lynch’s family along with school officials, McCray and de Blasio unveiled a plaque, which stated: “In recognition of his service to the Borough of Manhattan and the City of New York, and his tireless efforts to foster a government that raises up all New Yorkers, the Administrative and Parent Leadership of P. S. 368 Hamilton Heights School has voted to honor Bill Lynch and change its name to the William “Bill” Lynch School.”

The mayor unveils the new school name. Photo by Dean Moses
Bill de Blasio, the first lady, and schools chancellor present a plaque to daughter of William Lynch Jr. Stacy Lynch. Photo by Dean Moses