Thursday, March 25, 2021

A walk around inside the long-abandoned — and ghoulishly beautiful — P.S. 64

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.
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. 
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. 

In years past several local elected officials, community activists and residents have asked for the return of the building for community use.


Anonymous said...

wow wonderful! i am super envious!

Neighbor said...

Great and very interesting photos! I chuckled at "...and the door was open"


I can't remember the last time I saw such weak ass graffiti... I'm embarrassed for them.

Anonymous said...

the big mushroom mural is fucking great! Super tweaking!

I love how some men are so enraptured by their expenditures they have to spray paint about it. well, we still speak about Jean Cocteau and his party tricks, so they may be right...

XTC said...

Hell Awaits is correct. Without a hazmat suit one is risking life and limb breathing in the sea of lead dust and and asbestos particles that cover every square foot of that place.

Gojira said...

Thank you, Stacey, your fortitude is always appreciated. This takes me back to my "exploring abandoned buildings when I was a hell of a lot younger" days, many years ago. Still recall my foray into Christadora House, wish I had thought to take photos.

But I still cannot believe that in the almost 30 years that Gregg Singer bought this building promising to turn it back into a community access site, the city has not dragged his sorry ass to court to either make him live up to the legal agreement he signed at the time of purchase, or found a way to remove it from his greedy grip.

Lola Sáenz said...

Great photographs Stacie!!You and your artist friend are very Brave!! It looks like it would make a perfect place for a movie, like Night of the Living Dead in the EV

bonnie said...

Thank you for sharing!!! I know every inch of this building. I still have some of the files and documents. Thanks for highlighting it. Charas/El Bohio is this extraordinary space that was pulled away from our community in 2001. Then Greg Singer bought it for a song. He has not been able to legally build anything in its place. Mostly due to the community mandated use of the lease that prevents his many failed plans. I spent hours here. Many artists thrived and grew their work inside these walls. I still have a set of mirrors inside. Now all we see are Broken windows.

The Mayor promised to revive it for the community.

It would personally make me happy just yoi see that happen in my lifetime.

Peter Brownscombe said...

An enduring monument to the Rudolph Giuliani Administration.

noble neolani said...

So fucking depressing.

Anonymous said...

Since the beginning of time... give a man a way to wrote and he'll draw a penis. Maybe women do this too, but almost always from guys.

Richard Speziale said...

great photos Stacie!
BUT - if pigeons have taken over the building, shouldn't you wear a hazmat suit? pigeon droppings can be very toxic.
i declined a visit to a 20-year abandoned fire house uptown when i was informed i would need to don a "moon suit" because of the pigeon crap piled up everywhere inside.

Anonymous said...

"...which developer Gregg Singer bought in a city auction in 1998."

1998. FFS, I'm getting old.

elisa blynn said...

so many memories of El Bohio! my first theater productions in NYC all used Bohio for rehearsal spaces. That building used to be FULL of community ART stuff going on.

it should NEVER be turned into a dorm or a luxury condo. It should be returned to the neighborhood for the benefit of the Arts and in service of the betterment of Community having such a thing in its midst which has a legacy of Arts and Community upliftment.

Anonymous said...

How is this condition allowed? Do we have a Mayor? Do we have a Council Member ? Do we have a Borough President? Singer hopes it collapses and does not care about anyone else. That landmark synagogue was empty and burnt and demolished. 7th and 2nd Ave upstairs was vacant and there was a fire and it is demolished. Is this going to be the third such instance in Community Board 3? Where are all the twitter leaders on this? Building jails and bulldozing the park?

Galinsky said...

We had performances and art studios in there in the 80's... what a waste of space and political BS.

Mr Baggs said...

A March 2020 report from CrainsNewYork stated that Singer was willing to offer the building for COVID patients...


Anonymous said...

The building ought to be seized by the people and repurposed for common use.

marjorie said...

Stacie, you are an EV treasure. Thank you for these pics!

It's sickening that this gorgeous building -- which served our community as a school and then as art space -- is rotting this way because of one dude's greed and a lot of politicians' passivity.

Anonymous said...

Get the facts:

Anonymous said...

Let the city give Singer fair market value for the building and they can do anything they want with it.

Anonymous said...

As a community, we need to do more to come together to pressure the mayor and the city to TAKE BACK THIS BUILDING. I'm certain that we could raise the cash to return it to COMMUNITY USE. We do not need another dorm/frat house. Look at how much it has been damaged over the decades. Why weren't there more conditions placed on this sale? It is a current danger to the community like this and an eyesore. What happens if someone breaks in there and falls and dies? Would Singer be responsible?

Bayou said...

Stacie, thank you for your bravery, endless curiosity, dedication to the community, and the beautiful art that is always the result.

That the building is in this condition is criminal on so many levels.

Lower East Side - Not East Village! said...

Why wouldn’t you wear a “moon suit”? What’s wrong with you?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:30PM:

Why should the city give him "fair market value" and reward him for his greedy, lecherous acts?

I'm of two minds on this building. On the one hand, I want it back for our neighborhood. On the other hand, I don't want Gregg Singer to ever, ever receive his payday, and to feel that what he did was right, effective, or honest.

Anonymous said...

I would like this building to rot in perpetuity to spite Gregg Singer. This will be at the expense of the community which has been so bereft of culture that we won't really notice. Sometimes the most important preservation to a neighborhood is the development that is not realized. Shelly Silver and Bill Gottlieb know a thing or two about that..

RRReality1 said...

A monument to the anti-social, vindictive and spiteful faux leader Rudiani who evicted a thriving, important community organization and instead opened the way for an unscrupulous profiteering developer. A naked pillaging of the marginal community resource base.

The first NYC poetry reading I went to was at Charas/El Bohio and the late Bimbo Rivas, an organizer for Charas, showed up to speak a poem. The cultural program included art, poetry, theater, film, dance. The huge lobby was almost on a weekly basis a meeting space for the community to coordinate street protests against the most awful landlord of the week from the surrounding blocks.

The cultural, educational and social justice promoting value of the location was erased and never replaced. Another of the many more than are needed examples of how awful leaders get the city to attack itself to the harm of the most needful population base.

It is more than disheartening to see the building's rotted corpse on the inside. Aside from the anarchic pokes at expressive decoration, the building is a metaphor for the depraved, indifferent mentality that created the condition. Thanks for reporting this and exposing the degree of destructiveness city leadership routinely dispenses. NYC at its worst.

Anonymous said...

It was inappropriate to post this, the entrance was boarded up the day after this blog was posted. I appreciate the role EV Grieve plays in our community, but many things in our neighborhood historically and currently operate on the fringe of legality. I hope you will reconsider what it means to publicly expose events or spaces that are being used without city permission. This is not the first thing to be shut down due to unsolicited publicity on here.

chris flash said...

As a favor to his paramour, city councilmember Antonio Pagan, mayor Giuliani put CHARAS up for auction. The group that ran it for 20+ years had a $200 monthly lease with plenty of opportunities to buy it before Giuliani took office, but they did not.

In violation of standard protocols that require all-cash deals, the city sold CHARAS to Gregg Singer with FINANCING!

Singer's declared game plan is to wait out all of those who oppose his plans for the building, whether having it condemned when CHARAS gets to the point of no return so that he can demolish and build some monstrosity on the site or paying off the right politician to use the site as he pleases, in violation of the restrictive covenant in the deed that provides for "community use."

The truly sick part is that, as Singer sits on the rotting carcass of CHARAS, in this hyper-inflated real estate market, the building continues to INCREASE in value.

Since Singer got CHARAS, we have had two mayors, neither of whom gave or give a shit, but who have mentioned "saving CHARAS" often enough to build false hope and THREE city councilmembers run by CODA, a political group created to counter Antonio Pagan's DAC political group, all of whom who have done NOTHING about retrieving CHARAS from Singer. They clearly don't give a shit either.

There are plenty of grounds by which CHARAS could be taken from Singer, that NYC has used on other property owners previously. These include:

1 - Having the site declared a "blight" and condemning it
2 - Using "eminent domain" and taking the site from Singer
3 - Negating the sale to Singer due to his failure to properly maintain the building and his failure to use the building as required by the deed

The problem is that, as stated, NO politicians really care.

It is high time for us to REPLACE clubhouse politicians who keep selling us out by allowing zoning variances that enable over-building of "luxury' housing, by going along with the mayor's insane idea to destroy East River Park, by doing NOTHING to protect small businesses being wiped out (just look at all the EMPTY storefronts!) and by allowing CHARAS to sit and rot for more than 20 years.

We need a truly INDEPENDENT candidate to represent the LES. One who will take ACTION on the issues listed here, as well as saving CHARAS. As any parent can tell you, there is a severe shortage of local schools here. At the very least, CHARAS should be restored as a public school. Ideally, CHARAS could be a community center AND a school.

Election day is not far away. Watch as the career politicians sell us the same lines of bullshit to get our votes, after which, NOTHING will change!

Chris Flash

NMM said...

Singer's crews have been removing major pieces of structure from the building for years. Eventually there will be a fire or it will just collapse. It's called "Demolition by Neglect" and is a common practice by sleazy "developers".

Tom Spirito said...

I have recently acquired two vintage (1928 & 1935) copies of the "64 Reporter," the schools graduation issues. My Dad was a student at PS 64 during those years. He is gone now, but I wonder what he would think of the way time has marched on. I believe he'd like the old "PS 64" to be remembered and have a new purpose in the community.

Anonymous said...

I mean there’s even more graffiti now, it’s dope. I just explored the building today.

joseph said...

Thank you Stacie for your inspiring report on this wonderful school. This post is based on a recent dream I had about P.S.64. As a result I decided to look into available information on the school and found your report. I was a student at the school from 1960 until I graduated, and went on to Jr. High School 60 nearby. Every day of the school year I walked from my apartment building at 154 Ave.C to good old P.S.64. I must say those must be the best days of my youth going to school and growing up in the Big Apple, so memorable. I can recall some of my student friends like Elba,Jimmy,Ana,Patricia,Jaime,Kelly,Bruce and some of the teachers, like Miss Albenda, Miss Bruno, Mr. Austin, and Miss Horowitz. It was great. I'm saddened to see the building in its current state of decay. I believe the Phoenix will rise from the ashes, hopefully to serve the community and a student body bent on intellectual persuits.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I went to P.S. 64 in the late 50s, early 60s as did my sister and my uncle. I loved that school! We had recess on the roof. We walked to school, and many of us walked home for lunch and then back again to finish out the afternoon. Mary was the crossing guard. The classroom teacher had to do everything—teach academics, plus the same classroom teacher would teach gym, music (how to play the recorder). In the spring, the 6th grade boys walked over to the Boys Club for swimming instruction, the girls were taught to sew. The school was a big part of the community. The teachers—Mrs Rodgers, Mrs Horowitz, Mrs Ettinger, were strict but loving. And those field trips—to Manhattan museums, Central Park zoo, all by public transportation