Good news from the City Room about the former school at 605 E. Ninth St. between Avenue B and Avenue C:
A justice in State Supreme Court has rejected a developer’s bid to overturn a 2006 decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the former Public School 64 in the East Village, which closed in 1977, as a city landmark. The ruling is another step in a complex, decade-long battle over the fate of the building, which has become a symbol of broader struggles over gentrification.
Here's some history of the school, via the East Village Community Coalition Web site:
During the summer of 1911 P.S. 64 became the first Public School in the City to offer free open-air professional theater to the public. One of the reasons the school was chosen to premiere the series is because it was the first school in the city to have electric lights in its yard. Julius Hopp, director of the Theatre Centre For Schools tried unsuccessfully to stage The Merchant of Venice on the raised courtyard facing 10th street. The noise from the trolleys rumbling down 10th street made the performance inaudible but the thousands of people gathered across the street, packed onto the courtyard and peering from the tenement windows were treated to an impromptu rendition of Kipling's Gunga Din, recited by Sydney Greenstreet, one of the actors in the production. (Greenstreet became famous as the "fat man" in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.) Undaunted, Hopp regrouped and presented the play two days later in the school auditorium. The thrilled audience got a chance to see the young Greenstreet and Warner Oland (later to play Charlie Chan) in Shakespeare's grand Comedy. Needless to say, the harsh stereotypical imagery of the play was not lost on the neighborhood's burgeoning Jewish community.
In the 1920's P.S. 64 was a required stop for politicians campaigning in New York City. Governor Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt all recognized how important it was to make time to speak in the school's auditorium. Walker railed against his opponent, then Mayor Hylan, Governor Smith confronted the Hearst News Empire, and Roosevelt assessed his strength with Jewish voters by the neighborhood turnout for his speech at P.S. 64.
(Photo: Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times)