Jeffrey takes his two sons Gerard (8) and Graham (4) to the Central Park after school.
Graham poses for a photo with a shell in his classroom at his pre-school.
After work, Jeffrey first goes to pick up his son Graham from pre-school.
Jeffrey and Graham now go pick up Gerard from public school. On the way, Graham stops at a toy store’s show window.
After picking Gerard up, the family goes to the Central Park a couple of blocks away from school.
The family walks down the Theodore Roosevelt Park. Gerard strides over the Nobel monument.
Jeffrey embraces Graham who has just fallen.
Jeffrey and Gerard walk along the Theodore Roosevelt Park to get to the Central Park. Natural History Museum is right next to it. Jeffrey says “it is a great resource to have in the neighborhood” and having a place like this is “one of the advantages of raising a kid in the city.”
The brothers have arrived at the “Diana Ross Playground” located in the Central Park.
Graham plays with the big slide. Behind the park the apartment buildings stand in a row.
Gerard poses for a photo at the Diana Ross Playground. The photo was taken in March when the snow was still left.
“Raising kids in New York City is a full-time job,” Jeff Cousino conceded, “in addition to my regular job.”
Jeff and Stacy Cousino are a married couple that lives in the Upper West Side of New York City. Jeff works at Columbia University in the International Studies department, and Stacy works as a deputy copy editor for Hearst Magazines. They are raising two children in their two-bedroom apartment. Gerard, 8, attends Public School 87 and Graham, 4, goes to a private pre-school on the Upper West Side. On weekday afternoons Jeff picks up Graham from pre-school and then takes the subway train a few stops to get his older son Gerard on their way home.
We met up with Jeffrey as he got off from work at Columbia University. Jeff went to school at Columbia and then Yale University for graduate school.
Jeff and Stacy live in District 3 which is the public school district for the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When Gerard was younger, they used to live in Morningside Heights near Columbia University. However, the public schools in that area did not have a high academic rating. They decide to move to the Upper West Side and Gerard was able to attend PS (Public School) 87 because they live in the district.
Until he was three years old, Jeff and Stacy hired a nanny to take care of Gerard, their first born. When he was old enough, the Cousino’s had to apply to private pre-schools for their son’s early education. They toured several facilities and applied to six schools. The Family Annex ( http://www.familyannex.org/ ) was Jeff and Stacy’s first choice.
The private nursery and pre-school is three blocks away from the Columbia University campus where Jeffrey works.
The educational philosophy of the school follows the Reggio Emilia approach to education. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach ). According to the schools’ website the school encourages learning based on the children’s interests with input and assistance from adults in implementing the co-created curriculum. The pre-school cost 25,000 dollars a year.
Originally Gerard was not accepted, but in the rejection letter, it said parents could remain on a wait list for the school. Jeff asked to be put on the wait list in case some kids would not go to the school. He checked in several more times and developed a relationship with the head of the admissions of the school.
“She told me at the time that she would put Gerard at the top of the list with a star by his name if anything opened up,” Jeff explained. “Eventually they decided that a child in the nursery room class would be more appropriate in the pre-Kindergarten class and that would open up a spot in the nursery room and she would put Gerard in that slot. It took multiple emails and calls and conversations with the director and some creative placement on her part to ensure that we got a spot.”
By the time it came for Graham to apply for the Family Annex pre-school it was straight forward because he had a sibling that had formally attended the school.
Currently, Graham gets to pre-school at around 8:50 am and stays there until 5 pm. It’s a long day Jeffrey noted before he can pick him up after work.
He likes that the kids get a lot of close interaction with the teachers at the school. There is a state-mandated ratio of 4 or 5 children to one adult teacher. Often in Graham’s classes, there are three teachers there at a time for each student.
The pre-school is not affiliated with Columbia, but the University is the property owner of much of the real estate located around the campus. There are several pre-schools located in the neighborhood and Columbia gives the schools a break on the rent if they set aside a number of the student admissions for employees of the University. Columbia also offers every parent who is an employee $2,000 a year if they have children under five years old.
After picking up Graham, we take the subway to the 79th street station and walk over to New York Public School PS 87, the William T. Sherman School ( http://www.ps87.info/ ) ( http://www.greatschools.org/new-york/new-york/2304-Ps-87-William-Sherman/ ) where Gerard is currently in the third grade.
“I appreciate PS87 because it seeks not only to educate students academically but also teach them how to be thoughtful and constructive members of their community,” said Jeffrey.
The school also has an incredibly active PTA (Parent Teacher Association) that holds fundraisers and raises additional funds for the school.
“The Parents Association at PS 87 is a very active and committed group of parent volunteers,” noted Stacy Cousino. “Through numerous events like Harvest Fest, the Spring Fair, Rock Night, Broadway Night, and an Auction, they help raise the funds necessary to provide a wonderful education for our children. This has become essential at a time when the government is allocating fewer and fewer dollars to public school education.”
Gerard attended PS 87 after going to pre-school for two years the Family Annex.
When we arrived, Gerard was taking part in the after-school program at PS 87. Every day there are different directed activities for the children. One is called Minecraft coding. Another is Stop action animation. Sometimes the afterschool program has classes at the Natural History Museum which is a half-block away from the school. “It’s a great resource to have in the neighborhood,” Jeff said. “It’s one of the advantages of raising a kid in the city.”
Their younger son Graham was accepted into the new Pre-K program at PS87, but it was only a partial day class. They would have had to hire a nanny 5-6 hours a day to cover the care. It would have been less than the pre-school, but they felt it was more important to keep him in an exceptional program.
Next year Graham will be attending PS 87 as well, and his older brother Gerard is excited about it. “Maybe when I am in the Fifth grader or Sixth grade I’ll be able to pick him up [and take him home],” he said.
After Jeff picks up Gerard from the afterschool program, he heads over to Central Park with his kids to Diana Ross Playground, a short three block walk. Jeff takes them to the playground after school because he doesn’t think they get enough recess and playtime at school and they need more time to play.
As we walk up the sidewalk, Jeff says hello to more than one family. “That’s the nice thing about living in the city is literally everyone we passed we are on a first name basis with because they are in the neighborhood, all of the kids go to school together, we’ve all been in each other’s class,” said Jeff. “It’s nice. There is a sense of community in the neighborhood especially so after you have children. You wind up on the playgrounds, going to birthday parties, your kids are on the same soccer team. You really get to know your neighbors.”
When asked about their philosophy of raising kids, Jeff answered: “We want for them the things every parent wants. A good education, expose them to different cultures, different ideas, and different attitudes. I think that is one of the advantages of living in New York City. You can really expose them to so much. That is one of the reasons we chose to live in the city even though a lot of parents move to the suburbs when they have children.”
“The hardest part is the early years with the round the clock care, and you need to be there frequently drop off and pick up and do whatever needs to be done,” Jeff added. “As they get older Gerard is going to have a cell phone and a metro card and go free range in New York City. That’s when all the difficulties of going up and down staircases on the subway with a stroller, and lugging all the baby necessities pays off. As they get older, they really get to appreciate all of these opportunities. They get to go to the Natural History Museum, or MOMA or the Met or go to Lincoln Center to see a performance.”
As for teaching their children about diversity, Jeffery notes that they don’t have to because New York is such a diverse city. “They just see it around them, and they instantly assume that is the norm,” he said.
When asked about the current political climate and how they feel about it and if they worry about their Children’s future Jeffrey noted that because of where they live, and the social education they receive of life in a diverse city will help them in the future.
Jeff pointed out that Gerard was very involved in the election and is against many of the issues that President Trump represents. “Even for him at this age when he would hear anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, homophobic rhetoric he looks around and says ‘Hey I go to schools with kids from other countries. I go to school with kids whose parents are from other countries. I go to school with kids who have two moms or two dads, and they’re all cool. I have nothing against them. I like them they are my friends.’ I think just being exposed to that diversity is a wonderful thing.”
“They are both pretty outgoing,” Jeff noted about his kids. “That’s one of the things about urban children, they are usually very outgoing. They get exposed to all different cultures, all different ethnicities, so they are very comfortable interacting with everyone.”