This afternoon, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is listening to public comment regarding the former PS 64 and CHARAS/El Bohio community center on East Ninth Street... developer Gregg Singer will need approvals from the LPC to make changes to the exterior of the building for his proposed 500-bed dormitory. What follows is the testimony given by Councilmember Rosie Mendez...
Good afternoon, my name is Rosie Mendez — and I am the City Council Member who proudly represents District 2 — including the entirety of 605 East 9th Street which is the subject matter of this Public Hearing on application 14-2418 concerning the appropriateness of proposed alternations at the underlying site. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify here today on this most important matter.
In 2006, after years of concentrated community effort, the LPC designated the old PS 64/CHARAS El Bohio Cultural and Community Center as an Individual Landmark, citing many
singular facets of its design and century-long role as a publicly accessible community resource. In fact, the beautifully written designation report narrates at length about the rare architectural and community significance of this beloved building. I would go a step further and call the CHARAS building an absolute community treasure that universally symbolizes our shared history, collective struggles and our united path forward.
While the LPC is not specifically empowered to consider use — the history, architecture, cultural and community significance of this building is inexorably intertwined with the role it has played in the lives of successive generations on the Lower East Side. This building embodies a unique composition of remarkable and unequaled architectural features paired with a longstanding community-driven mission that dates back to 1904. Today, I urge the LPC to protect both of the unparalleled features of this building.
With respect to the plans submitted by the applicant, I have very serious concerns about the alterations proposed to the exterior of the building. My specific concerns include, without limitation:
• The proposed work on the roof — including installation of metal screen railings, mechanical equipment, an ATS room, boiler room and four stair bulkheads — will substantially detract from the distinctive roofline profile of the CHARAS building. These alterations may very well compromise the remarkable and striking architectural features of the building — including the mansard roof and pedimented dormer windows that are specifically cited — for their uniqueness and distinction — in the designation report. These dormers are, of course, the very same that were systematically destroyed, removed, and relocated in 2006, leaving nothing but a tarp flapping in the wind for the last seven years.
• I am very concerned that the proposed removal work in the elevated courtyards will undermine the hallmark concept and original design of this unique H-Plan building. The elimination and privatization of floor space on the 9th Street side of the building stands in stark contrast to the preserved vision, as articulated in the designation report which states, “The open space provided by the courtyards, the large groups of windows and the elegant decorative ornament were generous gestures and made this building stand out in this neighborhood of plain, rundown, and overcrowded tenements”... as these courtyards provided… “the luxury of open space in densely packed neighborhoods.”
Many things have changed since 1904, but the need for shared open space that is a source of community pride has not.
Conclusively, I strongly recommend that the LPC refrain from approving this proposal and require the developer to amend the current plans in a manner that entirely preserves the exclusive and remarkable characteristics of the CHARAS building — including the distinctive and landmarked roof, dormers and courtyards — consistent with the original design and designation report.
At this hearing, the LPC will officially vote to approve or deny the application... the Commission may also ask the applicant to return to a future hearing with revisions. We'll keep you posted as to what transpired this afternoon...
Meeting photos via MoRUS...
Previously on EV Grieve:
Will old PS 64 get a theater for nonprofit groups?
Rebranded P.S. 64 up for grabs: Please welcome University House at Tompkins Square Park to the neighborhood
Deed for 'community facility use only' at the former P.S. 64 now on the market
2 new sidewalk bridges arrive as city disapproves latest plan for P.S. 64
Efforts continue to fight the dorm planned for the former PS 64 on East 9th Street