Volume 75, Number 51 | May 10 - 16 2006


Emergency! Old P.S. 64 must be landmarked A.S.A.P.

Thanks to a last-minute injunction by Appellate Court Judge David Saxe on Tuesday, no scaffolding is currently being erected around the old P.S. 64 on E. Ninth St. and no demolition of its Baroque revival-style, cast-stone window trim can currently proceed. Yet, Gregg Singer, the owner of the turn-of-the-century building, has permits allowing both the scaffolding and the scraping of the building’s exterior.

A hearing on whether to extend the injunction is scheduled for May 15. On May 16 the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on whether the old school should be designated a city landmark.

While the situation is on hold at least until Monday, the fact that a developer could even think of destroying the facade of such a historically, socially and cultural significant East Village building when it is on the verge of being landmarked is an outrage.

Granted, the permit for the facade work was issued in May 2004, well before last October, when the building was calendared for a landmark designation hearing. Thus, the permit is still viable and legal, as opposed to any permits Singer tries to get for work on the building now, which would have to be vetted by L.P.C. first.

Yet, the fact that Singer got the permit for the facade work two years ago, but only now is moving on it clearly shows his real intent: He’s trying to thwart the landmarking of this community treasure by destroying its ornate exterior.

Whether or not removing the 100-year-old trim around the classic C.B.J. Snyder-designed H-style school building’s windows would hurt its chances of being landmarked is unclear. Hopefully, however, it won’t get to that point. Hopefully, the Landmarks commissioners will act quickly on May 16 and vote to landmark this building that is so critical to the neighborhood’s past, present and future.

The dangerous situation caused by the loophole between Buildings and Landmarks on the facade permit is one the city must close. Right now, however, Landmarks must move as expeditiously as possible to designate 605 E. Ninth St. as an individual city landmark — in an East Village that is so sorely underlandmarked.

As for Singer, he should realize what he’s stirring up is very volatile. The community wants this building saved and restored, badly. A lawsuit — which will only further delay things — could also result if Singer’s workers take sledgehammers to the window lintels and other details.

Although Landmarks usually doesn’t make its decision at the first hearing, this case is an emergency. Next Tuesday, Landmarks can — and we sincerely hope will — do the right thing.

After eight long years, it’s time to end this fiasco. Landmark the old P.S. 64 and let’s start working toward making it what it always has been and always will be — a true community facility.

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