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Creative Steps: A Newly Renovated Center for Early Care and Education Takes its First Steps in Washington Square Village

November 1, 2013

With renovation nearing its final stages, enrollment is now open for the new Creative Steps Early Care & Education Center, merging the Creative Steps Playgroup into University Settlement, a longtime leader in early education in New York City. The new program will serve 78 children in a renovated and expanded, state-of-the-art facility with one infant/toddler and four preschool classrooms. Classes are set to begin in January 2014. For enrollment inquiries, visit Creative Steps.

"Creative Steps has been in the community for many years, but in the new relationship with University Settlement the program will not just be larger, but will represent the most rigorous, creative, and comprehensive approach to early childhood development," says Nina Piros, University Settlement's director of early childhood programs.

“By bringing the Settlement's resources to this new site, the program available to parents and children will meet and exceed the highest standards guiding this field, which include: what happens in the classroom regarding educational and social development; teaching training and development, including an association with the NYU Steinhardt School of Education, Culture, and Human Development; availability of supplemental services, including early intervention, family child care, mental health services, and more."

NYU's Government and Community Affairs team (OGCA) sat down with Piros to learn more about the new Creative Steps program; its origins with Council Member Margaret Chin, NYU, and University Settlement; and her hopes for its future.

OGCA: Who will the program serve?

Piros: The program will grow from serving 15-20 children to 78 children. There will be 5 classrooms. The schedule with options will be 9am-3pm with extended hours from 8am-6pm available to all ages. Having a classroom serving infants/toddler from 12 months is an important enhancement to the community since these spaces are in high demand. As the program develops, we will consider additional evening or weekend hours plus the addition of parent/child activities.
The Creative Steps program will be fully integrated into the full range of University Settlement early childhood programs, and therefore would be representative of the highest quality programs available in this City.

OGCA: How was the idea of developing the space initiated? Who was involved in turning the idea into a reality?

Piros: University Settlement has a very long and extensive involvement with NYU and the community. Graduate students have internships in our organization, hundreds of volunteers work at our sites, including at our affiliate, The Door. Many faculty are engaged in projects involving our programs. Many of our staff have or are now attending NYU degree programs. And NYU has had representatives on our Board.
When NYU made the decision to expand Creative Steps into a larger program, they reached out to us to consider being in a partnership. University Settlement has been running a Family Day Care Program under an NYU contract for 6 years, and we have discussed the possibility of also having a group setting. These relationships between NYU, University Settlement, and the broader community take many years to develop, and we are excited to see this project come to successful fruition.
Throughout this process, from initial conception of the need for an expanded quality program serving everyone in the community through to full implementation, Councilmember Margaret Chin has played a critical role in advocating for the project, ensuring it be successfully completed according to the guidelines established by her office and NYU, and continuing to represent the interests of her constituents.

OGCA: How was the actual physical development of the new space planned?

Piros: Once NYU decided which space could be made available for an expanded Center, a collaborative relationship was developed in which representatives from the Settlement and Creative Steps joined with people from different parts of NYU, the architect, other professionals, etc in an iterative process to develop and finalize plans for the facility. This has been going on since January 2013, and now continues on weekly "construction" oversight meetings. Developing an early childhood facility is not an easy process in the NYC building process, but this partnership has illustrated what can be accomplished when everyone is on the same page and wants the same excellent outcome.

OGCA: What is your hope for the future with this new space?

Piros: We have two primary objectives: (a) make sure that this is an excellent program both from a parent and child perspective; (b) ensure that the NYU community, as broadly defined as possible, sees this program and facility as an integral part of the community.

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