Photos by Stacie Joy
In recent weeks, residents who live near the former P.S. 64 on Ninth Street and 10th Street between Avenue B and Avenue C have reported an opening in the plywood, offering access inside the long-empty property.
There have been reader reports lately of people inside the school, including on the roof. The FDNY responded to a fire here in December.
The other day, EVG contributor Stacie Joy, accompanied by a friend, walked through the wide-open gate to look around the former school and Charas/El Bohio Community Center. (The plywood has since been shored up, cutting off this entry.)
After seeing her photos, I asked Stacie for more about what she saw inside the school, which developer Gregg Singer bought in a city auction in 1998.
As previously reported, Gregg Singer has wanted to turn the building into a dorm called University Square. The DOB continues to maintain a Stop Work Order — dating to August 2015 — on the property.
Why did you decide to enter the former P.S. 64?
It was kind of a whim. I’d heard reports of what was going on inside and I was, as a photojournalist and longtime East Village resident, curious…and the door was open.
I originally planned just to take some shots of the exterior but when I saw I could get inside the building I decided to document it for posterity. I have a history of getting into places and I felt it was important to see — and share — what was inside.
What did you first notice after entering the building?
The smell! It’s pretty unpleasant. A mix of urine and funk, with top notes of mold/mildew and, I think, animal death and decay. I also keyed into the sounds…there is a lot of dripping noise, echoes and scurrying and flapping from the animal inhabitants. Hundreds of pigeons live inside, plus the rats.
It’s almost pitch-black as you enter and there are shards of broken glass everywhere. There is evidence of other people bleeding from getting caught in the shattered glass or broken planks and exposed nails. I could also hear and feel the wind as it moved through the building. It was eerie and spooky and ghoulishly beautiful. It had a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, at least until you made it up to the roof.
Based on your photos here featuring discarded cans of spray paint and fresh graffiti, it appears people have been inside recently. Did you see any evidence of anyone who may be living inside? Did you think anyone else may have been present while you were there — perhaps just hidden from view?
I did not see evidence of anyone living in there. I didn’t want to disturb anyone who may be living inside, and I wanted to be as respectful of the space as possible for an uninvited guest. There are, I think, six floors including the basement, plus the roof, but I only spied the wall art left behind, and evidence of parties: empty White Claw cans, condoms, teenage graffiti, love notes and messages, mostly centering around sex and drugs, plus some social justice themes.
What is your assessment of the building’s current condition?
It looks like at one point work might have begun — there were some supplies on the first floor ... but also evidence of a fire. The place is gutted down to the crumbling brick and studs, and there are hazardous holes in the floors and walls.
The space is soaring, empty and vast. I kept thinking about what it could be, and what a luxury it must be to have so much space to live or work in. The ceilings are so high! And there are so many windows, though most of them are busted out.
I was with a local artist who marveled at the graffiti and was covetous of the space, and what could be created there. We both felt changed and deeply affected by our time inside.
In years past several local elected officials, community activists and residents have asked for the return of the building for community use.