Brain food: New Navy Yard ‘steam’ school will feature culinary education

Hard at work: Officials plan to open a new educational facility dedicated to science, math, engineering, and the arts inside Fort Greene’s 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard early next year.
Perkins Eastman

This school is cooking with “steam”!

A new learning hub set to open soon in the Brooklyn Navy Yard will churn out the borough’s next generation of scientists, mathematicians, engineers, artists — and chefs, its principal revealed on Wednesday.

The top educator at the so-called Brooklyn Steam Center said the forthcoming facility will boast a state-of-the-art culinary space, run by former “Master Chef” contestant Shelly Flash, that will school youngsters in cuisines from around the world.

“Any given month could be a Thai restaurant, Egyptian restaurant, Mexican restaurant, you name it — we will be able to convert this space as needed,” said Kayon Pryce, who with his colleagues conceived of the school with the help of Navy Yard employees.

Pryce joined Borough President Adams and other local leaders to reveal plans for the center that they say will be the first of its kind in the city, and provide its graduates with the skills and relationships they will need to flourish once their time in the classroom comes to an end, according to the city’s education czar.

“When our students graduate, they will not only have the technical skills, but a portfolio of work, professional contacts, and valuable skill sets,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “They will graduate with so much more than just a diploma, they truly will graduate with a key to the future.”

The classrooms are coming to the third floor of Flushing Avenue’s Building 77 as part of the 300-acre Fort Greene campus’s ongoing transformation from an industrial shipyard into an inviting, modern-day commercial hub.

They will provide a new home base for current Brooklyn Steam Center staff and their pupils, juniors and seniors at eight Brooklyn high schools, who currently teach and learn at two makeshift spaces inside high schools in East Flatbush and Bedford–Stuyvesant.

The new facility will offer kids hands-on experience through technical-education CTE programs that will prepare them to work in such industries as film, media, computer science, and construction, in addition to culinary arts, according to Pryce.

“What we are trying to do is expose our scholars to as many different areas of the building trades as possible, so they can declare a speciality once they leave us and decide to go onto either college or one of our unionized partners,” he said.

The vision for the center started years ago when Adams, then a member of New York’s Finest, realized the only way to keep young people out of jail was to make sure they stayed in school, he said.

“I got tired of putting handcuffs on 11-year-olds — the common denominator that started to reveal itself to me, the only thing all these children had in common, was they did not receive a quality education,” said the beep, who doled out $5 million to build the $17-million facility as part of a larger $25-millon pot he set aside this year to fund similar steam-education programs around the borough. “The choice was made, either build a pipeline to prison or pipeline to profession. And I wanted to make sure that pipeline I built, with your tax dollars, would be a pipeline to profession.”

Officials hope to open the classrooms early next year as they move forward with a recently revealed 30-year initiative to make the waterfront Yard more accessible to neighbors, some plans for which require the city to first green-light a rezoning that would nix some of the property’s current parking and loading-dock requirements to make way for proposed new developments.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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