Landmarks must set a hearing date for the old P.S. 64
On Oct. 18 of last year, the citys Landmarks Preservation Commission announced it had calendared the old P.S. 64 school building at E. Ninth St. and Avenue B for a designation hearing. The news came as a stunning victory for the neighborhood in its fight to save the building and restore it to use as a community cultural and/or educational center. On the other hand, the announcement was a devastating blow to the hopes of developer Gregg Singer, who wants to demolish the rear of the turn-of-the-century building, keep its front facade as a shell and add a 19-story tower to create a university dormitory with 222 units. The community is overwhelmingly opposed to Singers towering dormitory, feeling its grossly inappropriate for the location.
Yet, following this encouraging development, theres been no word yet on a date being set for the designation hearing. The thought was that once Mayor Bloomberg was re-elected, the designation hearing for the old H-style school building would be promptly scheduled. But now, well into the third month of the mayors second term, theres been not a peep from the L.P.C. about this vulnerable and extremely critical building.
Calendaring a building does afford it some protection. Any plans to modify the building submitted to the Department of Buildings are put on hold for 40 days and referred to Landmarks. During this period, Landmarks can schedule a designation hearing, landmark the building and then deny any applications to modify the building. However, permits granted by D.O.B. before a building has been calendared remain in effect after calendaring. So, the previously issued permit Singer has from D.O.B. allowing him to strip off ornamental work around the old schools windows is still active. If Singer proceeds and strips the buildings ornamental work, we fear this could possibly jeopardize the buildings chances of being landmarked. Singer just renewed his sidewalk shed permit last month, so clearly hes not backing away from the property yet.
The longer this old structure hangs in limbo, the greater the burden will be when the community or nonprofit groups face the daunting and costly task of repairing and renovating it into a bona fide asset for the East Village. And the East Village, of course, is a neighborhood sorely underrepresented by landmarked buildings. If any building is deserving of designation, its this one.
Landmarks must not allow the momentum to be lost in the effort to save this treasured building, most recently the CHARAS/El Bohio cultural and community center.
Its been five months already since the announcement that the old school building had been calendared. The future of this precious building must be safeguarded. Rather than being reactive, and having to respond to what Singer might do, the commission must get proactive. A designation hearing date for the old P.S. 64 must be set now, without delay. Its time for Landmarks to follow through with what it started last October.