Power Memorial Academy

View of 161 West 61st Street from South.  Courtesy NYC Municipal Archive.

Power Memorial Academy

by Katherine Taylor-Hasty

Before it was the location of the Alfred, a high-rise apartment complex, 161 West 61st Street was the address of another high-rise building: Power Memorial Academy. Power Memorial Academy was an all-boys Catholic school, run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The school was not the first occupant of the building. Construction began at the address in 1915, and its first occupant was the New York Nursery & Childs Hospital, a hospital specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics.[1] The building was clad in brick and consisted of two towers. The shorter tower was seven stories, and the second tower consisted of ten stories. No information is available on the building’s architect, only its purpose. 

Unlike the other buildings absorbed into the Lincoln Center urban renewal projects, Power Memorial Academy held out until 1984 when the school was forced to close due to “the deteriorating condition of the building.”[2] Despite protests from the student body, the school was closed in 1983 and the student body was relocated to various schools throughout the area. 

This story of school closures is not at all abnormal or even particularly interesting, so why care about this particular school closure? Like many addresses in New York City, 161 W 61st Street has a unique history that includes being the home of a “basketball powerhouse,” and, sadly also being the site of a school shooting. 

Construction began at the address in 1915, and its first occupant was the New York Nursery & Childs Hospital, a hospital specializing in obstetrics and pediatrics.

Of the many notable alumni that attended Power Memorial Academy during its 53 years of operation, nearly half (47%, 8/17) gained their notoriety through basketball. In fact, Power Memorial Academy produced at least four NBA basketball players, one NBA referee, at least one college basketball coach, and at least one Italian professional basketball player. Of the four NBA players, two went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. With this record, it might be unsurprising that Power Memorial Academy gained a reputation for excellent basketball teams. In 1964 the Academy’s team was named “the #1 high school team of the century” following a record-breaking 71-game winning streak. Hall-of-fame NBA star, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known as Lew Alcindor at school) was probably a part of this award-winning team, graduating from Power Memorial the following year in 1965. Basketball was not the only sport where Power Memorial Academy alumni excelled. The school also counts among its alumni Olympic runners Anthony Colon (1970) and Matthew Centrowitz (1973); as well as professional hockey players Brian (1980) and Joe Mullen (1975).[3]

Students at Power Memorial Entrance

Image Courtesy New York Daily News, ca. 1984.

Power Memorial Student Tom Brady Jr.

Image via Find A Grave, undated.

Basketball Players with Len Elmore

Image Courtesy New York Daily News, ca. undated.

Power Memorial Academy was also, tragically, also the site of a school shooting. On March 15, 1948, Power Memorial Academy students were practicing for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Marko L. Markovich opened fire on the students, killing one and wounding six others. The victim was Thomas Patrick Brady Jr, and he was 16 years old. He lived at 830 West 179th Street, which was demolished. The front page of the New York Times for the following morning read “Mad Gunman Kills Boy Here, Wounds Six Before Capture.” The next day a Memorial Mass was celebrated for Thomas Brady, with the entire student body of Power Memorial Academy marching to St. Paul the Apostle Church (405 W 59th Street) where the mass was being held. Tom was buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. The school still marched in the parade, but out of respect and as a memorial for Thomas Brady, the students marched with their flags and drums wrapped in black and played no music. The shooter, Markovich, was a Serbian immigrant who blamed Catholics for the death of his 13-year-old son four years before. Markovich was caught and tried for first-degree murder. [4]

Marko L. Markovich opened fire on the students, killing one and wounding six others.

In November 1983 it was announced that Power Memorial Academy would be closing. The building had been falling into disrepair for many years, and it was determined that the Brothers could no longer afford to maintain the building. Extensive and expensive structural repairs were needed, and the expense was too large with the ever-shrinking enrollment. Not only would the building have to be sold, but the school would also have to be closed altogether. The 760 students at the school were shocked and upset. Several offered to do the repairs themselves, but to no avail. The school made plans to help relocate all of its students and faculty.


[1] Power Memorial Academy Alumni, “Power Memorial Academy A Brief Chronology: A Chronology of Events from 1931 up to 2003,” https://www.powermemorialacademy.com/files/Design/PowerStory.pdf

[2] Gene I. Maeroff, “POWER MEMORIAL SCHOOL TO CLOSE,” New York Times, November 10, 1983, https://www.nytimes.com/1983/11/10/nyregion/power-memorial-school-to-close.html

[3] Brian Towey, “Len Elmore, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among Alums Feted at Power Memorial Academy 80th Anniversary Dinner,” New York Daily News, November 5, 2011, https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/high-school/len-elmore-kareem-abdul-jabbar-alums-feted-power-memorial-academy-80th-anniversary-dinner-article-1.972772.

[4] Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 29 March 2021), memorial page for Thomas Patrick “Tom” Brady Jr. (1932-15 Mar 1948), Find a Grave Memorial no. 158390535, citing Saint Raymond’s Cemetery New, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA; Maintained by Ken R Jr. (contributor 49966516). 

Katherine Taylor-Hasty is a PhD candidate at UCLA Berkeley

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