There is nobody to take the books from the now closed Catholic school once known as Saint Gabriel.
Richard Feldman, a resident and human rights activist, wouldn’t let that happen. He began a book giveaway for anyone interested in picking up approximately 1,000 kindergarten through eighth-grade books at the school.
Residents were very grateful.
“I am always looking for new books for her (granddaughter) to read and for me to read to her,” said Andrea Schloss, a Riverdale resident.
She heard about the giveaway from The Riverdale Y. And as a grandmother, she naturally took advantage. She took books for emerging readers, level one for her 6-year-old who will be entering first grade at P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil.
Other books covered science, including one on green technology, anatomy, and a world atlas. Schloss is always in search of new books. She enjoys allowing her granddaughter to read.
In exchange for the books, she met Feldman at the farmer’s market and gave his table — Art for Aid — a clock radio with nature sounds, a framed piece of art representing teamwork.
“If you want for your kids, it’s a bonanza,” Feldman said.
Sigal Teten celebrated her birthday last October and, as part of her bat mitzvah, helped organize and paint a Little Free Library, which can be found at 3001 Henry Hudson Parkway — approximately only one of three in Riverdale.
“We reached out to Rick to see if we can place some of the St. Gabe’s books at our location,” said David Teten, Sigal’s father.
A Little Free Library’s motto is “Take A book. Share a Book.” The Minnesota-based nonprofit aims to build communities and inspire readers. There are more than 150,000 libraries within 120 countries. The little library resembles a birdhouse with a little door people can open, browse, take, and close. It is available 24 hours, seven days a week. People give and take books “literally daily,” David said.
The site is also near a nursing home and the Metro-North station, so there is an excess amount of time to read whichever location a person goes to.
“Leaders of closing and merging schools are provided a policy and procedure manual from the office of the superintendent, which they follow in a manner best suited to the needs of their respective schools,” said T.J. McCormack, director of communications and public relations for the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York.
Normally books and materials are first offered to other Catholic schools in their region.
St. Margaret of Cortona-St. Gabriel School, the only Catholic school run by the Archdiocese of New York in the northwest Bronx, stopped by last week to see if they needed some of the displayed books. It is still unclear if they were interested or had already taken something.
On Feb. 15, the Archdiocese of New York announced the closure of 12 schools for the 2023-24 academic session because of finances and under-enrollment. Two of the schools affected — Saint Gabriel and St. Margaret — have merged.
Some books and textbooks are new, and some are used, are still “usable,” but books are needed for St. Margaret of Cortona-St. Gabriel School as enrollment has nearly doubled due to the merger. It will serve roughly 400 students by the next semester.
Feldman says this is important because many of the books are Title I.
That is the largest source of federal funding program for school districts in New York to provide financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income households.
It is unsure how many are actually Title I from the federal education department or what the school is allowed to do with them.
People who have stopped by so far are from Saint Margaret of Cortona,-Saint Gabriel “to see what they need,” Feldman mentioned.
It’s more than the educators who will be interested. Even Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s office stopped by on Friday to check the book giveaway out and see if they can use the Title 1 books.
One of the options Feldman thinks Rivera might do is to distribute books to homeless shelters, but nothing is confirmed as of yet.
There will be further information once the senator has locked in his community distribution plan later this year.
“It’s a 1950s school, there are neighbors, stories and family connections, closing the school — is challenging,” said Feldman, an educator for 30-plus years.