The city took on a massive school construction program in the 1930s with the help of the giant stimulus package called the New Deal. Between its inception in 1933 and when it was dismantled in 1941, the Public Works Administration added 2,500,000 seats in schools across the country. In fact, the PWA accounted for 70 percent of all school construction projects during that time.
At the end of 1934, the New York City Board of Education requested PWA funds to build 168 schools and additions in three years. The city didn’t end up pulling in $120 million from the PWA, but it did open or break ground on 104 school buildings between 1934 and 1939, providing seats for 180,000 children. (A similar number of seats were created in the earliest years of the 20th century.)