Thursday, March 23, 2023

At the long-vacant former P.S. 64/CHARAS, more 'frivolous court actions to tie up the property'

Top photo by Stacie Joy from January; 2nd photo from last week by Duke9 

On Tuesday, the day before the foreclosure auction of the former P.S. 64/CHARAS at 605 E. Ninth St., developer Gregg Singer put the long-vacant property into bankruptcy protection, the latest maneuver in his nearly 25 years of being involved with the property between Avenue B and Avenue C. (First reported by PincusCo.)

Representatives of the coalition Save Our Community Center, CHARAS, former P.S. 64 (SOCCC-64) were planning on a celebration yesterday following the auction of the property "because it would have allowed the City to begin negotiations to re-acquire the building and return it as a cultural and community center to the neighborhood." 

Instead, per a statement from SOCCC-64: 
This is yet another in a long series of frivolous court actions to tie up the property and try and force a settlement that would allow Singer to violate the use restrictions on the building and construct a youth hostel that he is trying to pass off as a dormitory. 
On March 15, SOCCC-64, community leaders and residents hand-delivered a letter from local elected officials — including Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Congressman Dan Goldman, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and State Sen. Brian Kavanagh — to City Hall requesting a meeting as soon as possible to discuss re-acquiring the center. (Read more about the rally here.)
Meanwhile, as The Real Deal reported, Singer is also in litigation over the property with the city and former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He sued in 2018, claiming a conspiracy blocked his efforts to redevelop the building. Singer is now seeking to amend the lawsuit.

The city had not owned the property since selling it to Singer during the Giuliani administration, yet the developer alleges the offer "prompted the city to go from a slow walk to a full stop by categorically and unconditionally denying" him building permits.

Singer's attorney filed a motion seeking to amend his complaint. The proposed amended complaint was filed under seal.

Singer said in a statement that the amended complaint "will lift the curtain revealing the city's actions under Mayor de Blasio."
The 135,000-square-foot landmarked building is zoned for "community facility use," Any conversion to residential housing would require a zoning variance. The long-standing Stop Work Order and Full Vacate are still on file with the Department of Buildings.

Singer wanted to turn the building into a dorm (more here), though those plans never materialized. (In past years, the Joffrey Ballet and Cooper Union were attached to the project.) 

In late December, New York State Justice Melissa Crane ordered the foreclosure and sale of the former P.S. 64 with a default, including penalties and interest totaling approximately $90 million.

The property that Singer purchased from the city in 1998 for $3.15 million fell into foreclosure last year and was reportedly in the hands of lender Madison Realty Capital.  

In October 2017, then-Mayor de Blasio's statement at a Town Hall put forth the idea that the city would take steps to reacquire the building. According to published reports, the Mayor said he'd work to "right the wrongs of the past." 

Some residents want to see the space used again as a community center, as it was during its time as Charas/El Bohio Community Center. Singer evicted the group on Dec. 27, 2001. There's a petition in circulation titled, "Save Charas Community Center! Stop the Private Auction!" Per the petition, which states, "Demand Mayor Adams use eminent domain to return the center to the people!" (You can find the petition here.) 

With more legal proceedings and what critics refer to as delay tactics ahead, the building will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. 

THE CITY has a recap on what's been happening to date here ... with comments from Councilmember Rivera.


John Penley said...

Many thanks to Grieve and Stacie Joy for your amazing ongoing coverage of the now mythical battle for Charas.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Singer's endgame. What must his life be like, dragging this out for decades? He owes massive amounts of money, is tied up with the courts, everyone hates him...doesn't sound like a happy contented life to me. Why doesn't he just give it up and unburden himself?

Anonymous said...

It's green and obsession that motivates such kind of behavior, devoid of love an empathy. But also failure of our society to allow a rich speculator to hold an entire community hostage, deprive generations of children of their cultural space. Why don't we change laws and select officials to stop such robbery and build a good society baded on social priorities?

Anonymous said...

> including Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Congressman Dan Goldman, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and State Sen. Brian Kavanagh

These politicians are playing the activists, none of them are going to allocate the tens of millions this would require.

Chris Flash said...

The SCA (School Construction Authority) has the funding and the manpower and experience to turn CHARAS back into a public school, which, as catholic schools have been shutting down on the LES, is very much needed.

All it would take is for the mayor (no need for ANY other politicians to get on this bandwagon) to press the BLIGHTED PROPERTY and EMINENT DOMAIN buttons.

-Chris Flash

Anonymous said...

@ChrisFlash - The district does not need public school seats. Schools were being combined before Covid and enrollment is down since. ICS is closing specifically because of lack of students. However something like an all ages vocational school hub combined with free-to-all daycare could be paperworked under the DOE and the SCA could sort it out. That would also more than fulfill the terms of the original Rudy give away lease.

However, and you know this, eminent domain would go up against big real estate and set a very dangerous (to them) precedent. Even a Mayor not totally owned by big real estate - unlike Adams and de Blasio (Bloomberg was big real estate) - would be up against a platoon of lawyers from the powers that be.

The thing to do would be put together a realistic proposal with a budget and try to get traction with the local electeds while Singer drags it out and Captain Ahabs himself to a watery grave somewhere in miserable suburban New Jersey. Because once they finally squash Singer and it goes to auction it's over. And I'd guess the political will would be there to work around the land marking and height requirements. Which wouldn't happen until the midtown skyscraper market sorts itself out but real estate is a long game.

Kenny Toglia said...

It will take a mass movement to save Charas. OCCUPY CHARAS!

NYCDweller said...

Pay the man or shut the heck up. He purchased this from the city and they've stonewalled him from doing what he wanted to do as a private citizen. If you want the property back, you have to give him fair market value or step out of the way so he can create whatever its zoned for. Not sure what all the complaining is about.