Tribeca Bridge Dedicated to Former Principal Abraham Baumel

Members of the Baumel family and the Stuyvesant Alumni Association raised a quarter of a million dollars and dedicated the Tribeca Bridge to former Principal Abraham “Abe” Baumel.

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By Matt Melucci

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Stuyvesant High School’s move from its old campus on 345 East 15th Street to 345 Chambers Street, the Baumel family and the Alumni Association (AA) raised $250,000 to dedicate the Tribeca Bridge to former principal Abraham “Abe” Baumel.

The old building, which had a 1,500-person capacity, was in use from 1907 to 1992, and primarily housed students when the school was forging its reputation as a technical school for boys. But as the school grew, accepting its first co-ed class in 1969, it began to focus on math and the sciences, rendering many of the school’s facilities, including metalworking shops and sawing machines, obsolete. Principal Baumel is credited with pushing for a modernized curriculum and a new building to match.

“His story really touched me because […] everyone makes the assumption that Stuyvesant is number one. But even though Stuyvesant’s been around for over a hundred years, that wasn’t the truth. Back in the early twenties and thirties, Brooklyn Tech used to have the most rigorous curriculum. Then in the fifties and sixties, Bronx Science was number one. And now we just take it for granted,” said Soo Kim (‘93), president of the Alumni Association. “So this small gesture, to Principal Baumel and his family, is what we can do to recognize his great contributions to the greater Stuyvesant community.”

Matthew Baumel (‘09) and Aaron Ghitelman (’09), Principal Baumel’s grandsons, and the AA began an online campaign to raise money for a bridge dedication. “When we first dreamed this up, we couldn’t have imagined this. We had no clue that anyone was going to raise any money. We kind of feared that after 25 years, Stuyvesant might not remember Abe Baumel. But it’s very clear that Stuyvesant has not forgotten about Abe Baumel,” Ghitelman said. “This is just a humbling amount of support and love.”

Donors who gave more than $250 had their names inscribed on the memorial plaque, which is now displayed at the second floor bridge entrance. The fund will be put toward the school’s general endowment.

“This is how we are able to respond to all […] requests from the students,” Kim said. He ultimately hopes that the fund will help current principal Eric Contreras in what he calls a new Baumelian mission, partly by “replacing Mechanical Draft, Metalshop, and Woodshop with Robotics, Nanotechnology, Renewable Energy, Hydroponics, and CS Programming,” he said.

The dedication ceremony, which drew on implicit themes of diversity and Stuyvesant as an equalizer of cultural capital and socioeconomic privilege, was well-attended, with members of the Baumel family, alumni, and current students present.

“You know, he used to say it was the greatest honor on Earth to be among Stuy students,” said Judith Baumel, Principal Baumel’s daughter. “There’s this Jewish idea that mankind was created in God’s image, and he really looked for that in each student. He really found that immigrant quality in each student, you know? These kids would walk in, their parents wouldn’t even be able to speak the language, but they’d be coming here to get a public school education [...] and it’s very much the same now. In some ways, the school hasn’t changed at all,” she said.