City Tech: A Photo History

Sometimes the past is prologue in ways that are painful to recount. A case in point involves what transpired in the dawn’s early light on the sleepy Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, at a place called Pearl Harbor and how that event helped shape what took form on narrow Pearl Street in Downtown Brooklyn five years later.

The 1941 air attack on the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii -- the event that launched America’s entrance into World War II -- set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to the creation of the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences in a converted Brooklyn warehouse in 1946. The institute was an innovative experiment in the merger of college-level study in the arts and sciences and instruction in the technologies of the era.

The new institute was no mere expansion of the existing education system of the 1940s. It was created in response to the new and rapidly growing need to train workers to fill positions in business, industry and the professions that lie between the trade level and that of highly specialized professionals. The Pearl Street facility was inspired, in part, by the need to meet the educational and training needs of veterans returning to civilian life in a post-war economy marked by a myriad of new inventions, industrial processes and technologies -- many the product of our country’s response to what had occurred five years earlier in a quiet Hawaiian inlet called Pearl Harbor.

When the fledgling institute first opened on Wednesday, February 5, 1947, lectures were temporarily held in borrowed space in an old public schoolhouse on nearby Schermerhorn Street and lab and shop work at a nearby technical high school, while the task of renovating the Pearl Street building continued. There were 234 students -- mainly returning veterans and local vocational high school graduates -- enrolled in the 20 classes originally offered by the institute’s four academic departments -- chemical, electrical, mechanical and structural technology.

From this modest beginning, the original institute has evolved into the senior-level college of technology of the 19-campus City University of New York system. As such, it is the largest public college of technology in New York State, a leader in the application of technology to the teaching/learning process, and a national model for urban technological education.

Today, after several changes in name, funding source and institutional affiliation, New York City College of Technology is home to nearly 12,000 students enrolled in 56 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs in the technologies of art and design, business, communications, engineering, entertainment, facilities management, healthcare, human services and the law-related professions, career and technology teacher education, and the liberal arts and sciences. An additional 12,400 students enroll each year in a broad range of adult education and workforce development programs through City Tech’s Division of Continuing Education.

City Tech’s academic programs and other educational initiatives are widely recognized by business, industry and government as integral to the development of a highly skilled workforce throughout the city, state and nation. Through traditionally strong and adaptive academic programs, a broad curriculum, innovative instructional technologies and a solid commitment to community partnerships, City Tech is uniquely positioned to meet the critical human resource needs of the 21st century.

The photos that follow depict the College’s evolution from its modest beginnings in a 19th century public schoolhouse to a contemporary architect’s vision of what its future holds. Additional historical information can be obtained through the College Archives, maintained by City Tech’s Ursula C. Schwerin Library.