Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A look at the former P.S. 64

The former P.S 64 and CHARAS/El Bohio community center on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C is back in the news after Mayor de Blasio said that his administration would take steps to reacquire the building.

This surprise announcement came during the District 2 Town Hall last Thursday night at P.S. 188, the Island School.

De Blasio didn't expound on the topic any further that night. His spokesperson didn't offer any specifics to follow-up queries from DNAinfo.

A spokesperson for owner Gregg Singer, who bought the property from the city in 1998, said that he has no plans to sell the building. The spokesperson, who said that the city is being a bully, told DNAinfo the appraised value of the property is $60 million, and that Singer "has already poured $80 million into upkeep."

Singer, who wants to turn the landmarked property into a dorm called University Square, continues in a holding pattern while the DOB has a Stop Work Order on the building.

Here are some photos of the building from this past weekend... starting with the 10th Street side...

... and the Ninth Street side...

The wheat-paste posters are nearly 8-inches thick on the plywood...

Preservationist groups and other residents have been opposed to Singer's plans, and want to see a return of the landmarked building to use as a cultural and community center.

As seen on the fence at La Plaza Cultural down on Ninth and C...

The DNAinfo piece also quotes East Village resident Jorge de Yarza, who co-owns the cafe Donostia on Avenue B between Ninth Street and 10th Street. Accordonig to DNAinfo, "he helped gather roughly 900 signatures from locals living within a mile of it in support of the dorm plan, asking the city to allow it to move forward."

"We think this is a completely personal issue with a very vocal minority in my community and we have proved that the vast majority of the immediate community is in favor of this building permit going through as a dorm for Adelphi, because bottom line is it's a 100,000-square-foot eyesore that has been there forever for no reason."

According to the Lo-Down, de Yarza helped Singer support candidates running against Carlina Rivera in District 2’s City Council race last month. Rivera, who won the race, is an ally of outgoing Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who has long opposed the dorm plan.

In an interview with the Lo-Down, Singer's attorney, David Schwartz, "alluded to the possibility of a lawsuit to force the city to sign off on the dorm plan, but expressed hopes that Mendez’s successor will 'do what’s right for the community.'"

In a comment on the previous EVG post on this topic, someone wrote, "To find out the truth regarding 605 E. 9th street see: www.oldps64.com" and signed it Gregg Singer. That website has background on the building, at least from Singer's perspective.

Previously on EV Grieve:
During Town Hall, Mayor announces city's interest in re-acquiring former P.S. 64


Anonymous said...

Give Charas back to the community .Enough with university dorms. We don't need more attitude drinking and texting!

sophocles said...

That's what we need is another dorm. Is there no end to it?

Anonymous said...

My math says Singer is looking for $140 million to be bought out, no way is the city going to pay that.

Fashion By He said...

how many people still living in that area still want it as a community center? prob not as many as the few making a lot of noise make it seem

let the guy do what he wants with the buildling

Anonymous said...

Of course the Donostia owners will want a dorm for well-heeled youngsters who will swipe their parents' credit card for a bit of octopus tentacle and a glass of tempranillo for $40. But I also have sympathy because extended scaffolding flanking these blocks all these years means extended people camping under it and the other banal scaffolding inconveniences for the neighbors and area, perhaps this has sat idle for too long.

Anonymous said...

A question that never gets answered when taking the building "back for the community" comes up is what sort of community center is being proposed. Someone is bound to mention: A SCHOOL!!! but this district currently has schools that need students. There are already community groups here. There are senior services, day care, a low income health clinic. If this neighborhood is under served and needs another "community center" what services are not being provided?

The argument could certainly be made citywide that low and middle income housing is needed but that's a different can of political worms. The reality of what is here these days, as in actually walking past the building, would point to a "tech hub" or some sort of work spaces, a cafe and a Duane Reade. Singer wants to get a dorm deal just to build it out and then, once the dorm deal falls through, say "oh well" and sell it off as million dollar condos. Which would most likely be fine with the co-owner of the upscale wine bar around the corner. While that might rub me personally the wrong way like it or not the neighborhood has changed. Turning the building back over to the pigeons and a few congueros doesn't seem realistic and isn't close to the current demographic.

If Rivera has any concrete ideas that aren't pandering exclusively to her political niche she should bring them up. And soon because chances are, regardless of what DeBlasio will say a few months before the election, that Singer eventually wins this.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor and the City of New York should do the right thing. Yeah, right, when did they ever?

Anonymous said...

'Singer "has already poured $80 million into upkeep'

Seriously? There hasn't been any upkeep. Scam.

Anonymous said...

"how many people still living in that area still want it as a community center? prob not as many as the few making a lot of noise make it seem"

My guess is a lot more people would love a community center than those looking forward to another ice cream or coffee place. A community center is a great benefit for the neighborhood, elderly, children and families lives would improve with such a facility. Young able bodied adults don't need this so people like yourself cannot imagine how it could help others.

Anonymous said...

@9:37am: Screw you, Gregg Singer!

"... because bottom line is it's a 100,000-square-foot eyesore that has been there forever for no reason." Uh, NO, Mr. de Yarza, it's a SCHOOL that's been there forever for a good reason, b/c it was a SCHOOL serving this community's children. It's an eyesore NOW b/c Gregg Singer bought it and has allowed it to deteriorate.

I hope the city takes it back; IMO Singer is nuts and neither that building nor the surrounding neighborhood should be allowed to be "held hostage" by one crazy person like Singer.

And no, we definitely don't need another dorm. There are entirely too many bro's and baby bro's around here already. We need something that will be available to ALL the residents of the community, whether as a school, a community center, a senior center, etc.

29YearsanEVresident said...

the history of this contested space is so full of partisan myth making it's head spinning. There's enough bad faith, bad decisions, mismanagement and lost opportunity to go around.

Some random thoughts about what we might learn from this mess.

Singer bought the formerly city-owned building in 1998 for the astonishingly cheap price of $3.15 million. So.....

Lesson #1: if the "community" has an opportunity to invest itself, don't squander it. In the mid nineties, that CBO's, elected officials, residents and the city itself didn't see this as an opportunity for housing, arts, seniors whatever--- that is the original sin.

Lesson #2 if you run an arts organization/community center you have keep growing and adapting to your community, not the other way around. The original rescue of the building from drug dealers by activists was truly commendable and the community uses in the early 80's at El Charas were cool and loaded with possibility, but by the 90's El Charas was floundering for a lot of reasons. Cliques, undercapitalization, serving smaller and smaller groups of people and frankly being inhospitable and uncreative about building audience, constituency and expanding use.

Lesson #3 Singer is not to be trusted. His play now is demolition by neglect. With every passing week he gets to add more carrying costs to whatever he says is his outlay (and they probably are steep) and we get to watch the building fall apart. Who knows what his real end game is.

Lesson #4 Don't believe the Mayor. De Blasio isn't going to reacquire the building...it's likely pandering BS. The only remote chance is that he has some scheme where he turns it into affordable housing that he can fit it into his already established priorities. Given the cost though, I don't see how that happens. Figure SInger can get bought at all his costs plus 10% at a minimum and then add on a complete repurposing, gut renovation and you are talking about a project probably north of a hundred million. Nope, not going to happen.

Lesson #5 A hopeful one! If anyone can broker some kind of common sense, not naive solution and find a workable compromise to this mess, it's Carlina Rivera. She has credibility and history with the full circle of players to maybe get this moving in some kind of useful direction.

Otherwise, years more of decay and effective abandonment.

Anonymous said...

My fantasy redevelopment idea, now that I'm getting older -- senior housing! mixed income, community space too, but a place where all of us in walk-ups can move when it becomes too much. Even better would be a continuing care retirement community so we can get REALLY old here.

Anonymous said...

@11:20 AM - Good post, though El Charas started off cliquish and inhospitable. They never made an effort to move beyond their little circle, which would have been fine for a smaller space but not the vast old former PS 64, and the fiascos during the hearings over the building were genuinely bad tactics, though given who was Mayor at the time it was going to go to a corrupt developer cheap no matter what.

DeBlasio isn't going to do anything. If Rivera can reach out to all the groups in the community, not just us oldsters and long time locals, and broker something real then she's got serious political skills. We shall see. Singer just takes the write down each year so he can wait it out.

Anonymous said...

The building has been sold to Singer. It's Singer's building. He may or may not be able to turn it into a dorm, but as far as just "taking it back"--that's just not the way reality works.

The City has to operate within the law. This is not Venezuela. If they exercise eminent domain, they're going to have to pay a lot of money for it and also have to pay for very costly litigation. Maybe if they succeed as taking it, at the end of the day, they won't pay every cent that Singer is asking, but it's still going to take an staggering amount of money.

I'd rather the City stop spending money like a sailor on shore leave and perhaps take some burden off the taxpayers. Our yoke is heavy enough. Plus, even if they got their hands on it tomorrow, the way the city works, it will take probably ten years and millions of dollars before they do anything at all with it and will likely just misuse it.

cmarrtyy said...

I believe it's a pipe dream to take back the building... But if it happens, it will only be worth while if there is an overriding need, a special purpose for the building. And I'm not talking about a community center. This project needs energy and senior citizens and daycare don't cut it. The building is too large to be filled by needs that are duplicated elsewhere. I was thinking more in line with an arts resource center: small theater, rehearsal spaces for the local theater companies.(Public theater and NY Theater Workshop - they both rent space outside their theaters for rehearsals), art studios, exhibition spaces, recording/film editing studios... you get the drift. It would bring people, energy and rental fees and a lot of life to this large dead space.

Anonymous said...

@1:01pm: I am with you 100% on that! It's an excellent idea but I don't think anyone cares about older people any more. We're just "in the way" of progress & AI & the dehumanization of everything that *can* be dehumanized.

Even though we have strong roots in our community and have worked hard all our lives, we're still just "in the way", b/c apparently nobody young has parents/grandparents and also b/c nobody young can imagine that they themselves will ever be old.

Anonymous said...

@4:09pm: "This project needs energy and senior citizens and daycare don't cut it." Thank you for perfectly proving my point that senior citizens are essentially seen as useless and worthless in this community (and in society in general).

BTW, senior citizens *do* have energy; you may discover that for yourself when you become one.

Anonymous said...

@6:22 PM There is lots of daycare already available in this neighborhood. As for senior housing? That sounds very far from politically doable. Any kind of low to middle income housing would be welcome anywhere in the 5 boroughs.

@cmarrtyy Doesn't the newly skinned PS 122 provide arts friendly rehearsal and performance space? I agree that it's a pipe dream to take the building back. Unclear why DeBlasio was running his mouth like that, though he did give a rather red interview regarding rents and real estate a while back.

Our best hope for karma is Singer going bankrupt or getting busted for something else. If the scaffold falls on me I'll sue but I'd be suing the scaffolding company and they carry the needed insurance so no way to go after Singer.

cmarrtyy said...


Sorry about your interpretation. Seniors and daycare are the "usual suspects" when talking about a community center. But those 2 groups and related activities are not enough to fill a 100,000 sq. foot building or do they justify the 60 million to buy and another 10 mil to renovate.

Anonymous said...

Senior housing WOULD be do-able, IF there were a will to make it happen.

Regarding senior citizens, why not make that building into affordable senior housing with supportive services to allow one to age-in-place?

Or it could become a NURSING HOME, to replace the space lost when Shaoul took over the one near Ave. B, as well as maybe also accommodating AIDS patients like Rivington building, which was stolen out from under everyone's nose.

And that STILL leaves room for community uses (such as theater or rehearsal space), and maybe even a cafe or restaurant. It doesn't have to be just ONE thing! The uses for such a large building are many, but the imagination & will to make it happen are absent.

IMO, De Blasio is only TALKING about this b/c it's an election year; as soon as the election is over, this will disappear into the same black hole that all other political promises disappear into.

sophocles said...

I agree with 11:36. de Blasio doesn't want to catch his zipper on a Rivington House situation so he is appearing on the front line but as soon as bullets start flying he will run for cover.

Anonymous said...

There's enormous need for school space in the neighborhood (witness the three schools crammed into a building over on 12th Street). There's enormous need for performing arts space citywide. I don't know the legal considerations, but Singer's clearly a gratuitously bad actor and in a just world, this building would be taken back from him for his neglect of it alone and his investors would take a haircut. Financially, the city can afford to fix up a gorgeous old building. It's a rare and precious opportunity, no matter the use we settle on for it. Of course de Blasio's saying this because it's an election year, but he's also saying this because his friend Rosie Mendez has been humping this issue uphill for years (serious props to her for this), and because it's the right thing to do for the people of this city.

Anonymous said...

@11:44 AM

> the three schools crammed into a building over on 12th Street

But the schools that are crammed in need students. There is an enormous need for quality schools in this neighborhood but my understanding is there are plenty of elementary and middle school seats available.

> enormous need for performing arts space citywide

Are there audiences out there to justify more performing arts spaces in this era? The dance community has always been starved for space and what's left of the old PS 64 auditorium is certainly large enough for the grandest choreographer. Financing that renovation for dance would take an 8 figure philanthropist.

> this building would be taken back from him for his neglect of it alone and his investors would take a haircut

Could that work? It would be a fantastic lawsuit and certainly worth a try, but I join every other commentator is predicting that this is just campaign season talk from DeBlasio and we won't hear anything about it again. And I doubt it would work.

To push forward interested parties could put together a serious detailed proposal about what the end use(s) of the space would be, including financing. If Department of Education needs space in the neighborhood get them on record as saying so. Get CEC1 involved. If the money can be raised to finance an arts center get at least some of it semi-committed. Because without a firm proposal this talk just sounds like sour grapes, which is Singers' contention all along. If Rivera could push anything like this along at all then she's got major political skills. If she gets it built she's the next Mayor after Bill.

Anonymous said...

Hard money lenders Madison Capital are behind this loan ...Same as Raphael Toledano and other crooks making havoc in the hood ..

Anonymous said...

Singer is being sued by his own partners for mismanagement and squandering money and just borrowed from Madison Realty, he is out the door soon one way or the other. And good to know to never go to Donostia and will tell all my neighbors too.