Volume 75, Number 20 | October 05 - 11, 2005

Developer is asking $70 million for CHARAS

By Lincoln Anderson

The old Public School 64, former CHARAS/El Bohio, on E. Ninth St. has been put up for sale or net lease by developer Gregg Singer, who so far has been stymied by community opposition in his effort to build a megadorm on the site.

Michael Soleimani, head of East Village sales for real estate broker Massey Knakal, said a letter was recently sent to 100 potentially interested parties informing them the property can be theirs for the right price — $50 million to $70 million. Singer bought the property for $3.15 million at a city auction seven years ago.

The letter, which only discusses a sale, describes the old school as “one of the largest development opportunities ever offered in the East Village.”

Asked to describe Massey Knakal, Soleimani said, “We exclusively represent sellers.”

However, two pages of information about the property accompanying the letter note it is also for rent for community facility use. Permissible uses under the property’s community facilities deed restriction include medical offices, social service day programs, schools, dormitories and monasteries, among others.

A call to Singer was returned by a public relations spokesperson, Shane Kavanagh of the Marino Organization.

“Basically, what’s going on is we’re looking for tenants and anyone that would be interested in leasing space in the building,” Kavanagh said. “And as with all real estate owners, we’re keeping our eyes open for anyone interested in buying the property.” Regarding the status of University House Corporation — Singer’s plan for a multi-university dorm — or a Jewish-themed school and dorm by Chabad of Gramercy Park — a Plan B Singer was pitching as a fallback — Kavanagh said, “We don’t have any tenants — that’s why it’s out there,” referring to the sale and lease offer.

Singer is appealing the Department of Buildings’s decision to deny him building permits for his planned 19-story dorm on the site of the old P.S. 64, which was most recently the CHARAS/El Bohio arts and community center. A ruling by the Board of Standards and Appeals is expected by the middle of this month, Kavanagh said. If B.S.A. rejects Singer’s appeal, a lawsuit against the city is an option, according to Singer’s spokesperson.

“That’s definitely a next-step possibility,” he said.

D.O.B. most recently rejected the dorm — which would stand to gain extra height and square footage from the community facilities zoning bonus — after finding that the project has no clear connection to an educational institution, and previously rejected it after finding its rooms lacked dorm layouts.

Michael Rosen, a leader of the East Village Community Coalition, which formed to fight the dorm, said they recently obtained a copy of the Massey Knakal letter.

“It said there’s not a set [sale] price, but in the area of $50 million to $70 million,” Rosen said, “or triple-net lease of $5 million to $7 million a year, something like that.” Under a triple-net lease, the tenant pays property taxes, building insurance, electricity bills and the like.

Rosen said the broker has also issued an informational binder on the property, including a description of the neighborhood and showing the plan for the stalled dormitory and alternative massing options for the project.

“He’s trying to sell a site he represents that could be a 19-story dormitory,” said Rosen, a developer himself. More precisely, he said, “He’s trying to sell a setup for a site that could be a 19-story dormitory.” Rosen said he has no idea what Singer is up to, but that one possibility could be that “he’s looking to sell to a university and take his $50 million or $70 million and go home. He also might be testing the market. I don’t know how to read it.

“I fully assume if he loses at the B.S.A. that he will litigate,” Rosen added.

Asked if maybe Singer has finally had it with the stubborn opposition by the community, Kavanagh said, “We’re not washing our hands of [the property]. Hopefully, we can find a way to make this work for everyone.”

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