New Utrecht? More like old Utrecht!
Alumni celebrated New Utrecht High School’s 100th anniversary at the Bensonhurst campus on Oct 24. Grads decked out in green-and-white regalia — the school’s colors — caught up with old classmates and toured their old stomping grounds, which are featured in the opening credits of television’s “Welcome Back, Kotter.” One prominent alum said his dreams may have been his ticket out, but his memories were his ticket back.
“I took the D train down, but I could’ve flown back on my own,” said Norman Seigel, a prominent civil rights attorney and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It just felt so good to be back there and relive some of those memories.”
The school treated former students to breakfast, T-shirts, and flash drives with yearbook photos from their graduating year — and some Utes even took to the field for a throwback football game.
Councilmen Mark Treyger (D–Bensonhurst and a former New Utrecht teacher) and Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) presented Principal Maureen Goldfarb a proclamation recognizing the centennial. State Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Bensonhurst) were also on hand, but “Welcome Back, Kotter” creator and star Gabe Kaplan — also a Ute — got no welcome back, because he was absent.
New Utrecht High School was founded in 1915 as an all-boys offshoot of Bay Ridge High School, which was then turned from an coed school into an all-girls school, according to the school’s website. It had humble beginnings in a small schoolhouse around the corner from its current campus with a first graduating class of only 16 students. The city built the current building less than 10 years later to serve 2,300 students — both boys and girls. Within a few years, New Utrecht’s student body grew to more than 10,000 — the largest in the world at the time.
Siegel said the school hadn’t changed much since his day, but his memory had.
“Your memory of the stairwells and hallways is that they were huge, but they’re really much narrower,” he said.