PS 89 Celebrates Its 20th Year at Annual Taste of Battery Park City

Left: An estimated 1,500 people attended the Taste of Battery Park City at the southern end of North Cove on April 21. Right: PS 89 Principal Ronnie Najjar gets a hug from Chris Lynch, the father of twin 5th graders. "The quality of the school has kept us in the neighborhood," Lynch said. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 24, 2018

P.S. 89 held its third annual foodie fundraiser on Saturday, with 20 local restaurants offering samplings of their cuisines and attendance by an estimated 1,500 people. It was a mouth-watering event, as always, but this Taste of Battery Park City had an extra ingredient.

“Twenty years, can you believe it?” exclaimed Ronnie Najjar, the school’s principal from the beginning. She was on hand not only for the big taste event on the North Cove’s southern plaza, but to celebrate her school’s two-decade milestone.

Najjar was accepting congratulations and hugs from a stream of parents and others at a special table where she and other veteran staff, like Assistant Principal Ria Seplowin and music teacher Mary Cherney, could order their tastes in comfort, away from the crush of hungry eaters around the food stalls.

Najjar reflected on her growth as a school leader, after leaving the teaching position she had held at P.S. 234 since that school opened in 1988. “I’m much better at what I do,” she said. “I know so much more. I’ve had a lot of experience in hiring teachers and developing curriculum and dealing with all kinds of hardships, external challenges and internal challenges.”

The most obvious of those challenges were two terror attacks close to the school: The attacks of 9/11 that displaced her school for months, and the deadly truck rampage that ended just outside the school last fall.

“Those years of experience just sort of builds up and you don’t realize it until you have to prove what kinds of skills you really have,” she said.

Cherney had just led a medley of tunes sung by her student chorus and now was seated at the celebratory staff table. “I’ve had a lot of independence to build the music program from scratch,” Cherney recalled of her years as the school’s original and only music teacher. “I wasn’t stepping into anybody else’s shoes so I was able to create my vision of a music program, and it’s been wonderful.”

Meanwhile, 20 restaurants were dishing out their tastes, from Northern Tiger’s kung pao chicken dumplings, and the shawarma sandwiches from Naya Express to the mini blueberry muffins courtesy of Le Pain Quotidien and rainbow bagels by Pick A Bagel. (Not to mention the 5th graders’ lemonade and iced coffee stand.)

“It’s so nice to see so many people come out and support this and to also have a beautiful day,” said Talene Kelly, who co-chaired the event with Rene Finch.

As Najjar surveyed the crowd and the many volunteers from her school working to make the event a success, she recalled how, following her appointment as the schools leader, she promised herself she would just try the job for a year. It was never her plan to stay so long, she said.

“I think it worked out,” the principal added with a smile.