A demolition worker removing a dormer window on Monday at the old P.S. 64, above, in violation of a stop-work order. All of the sidewalk on the buildings 10th St. side, below, should be completely covered by a protective shed.
Not easy stopping old P.S. 64 owner from chopping
By Lincoln Anderson
There were yet more puzzling developments at the old P.S. 64 during the past week.
Last Thursday, Daniel Reardon, a representative of the National Architectural Trust preservation organization, wrote City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, saying hed received a call from old P.S. 64 owner Gregg Singers attorney.
Apparently, Reardon wrote Mendez, Mr. Singer has had a change of heart and is willing to resume good-faith negotiations with you, the city and other concerned parties to restore and preserve the damaged facade of [the old] P.S. 64 and to work with the various interested parties to resolve its future use. Reardon said Jeffrey Glen, Singers attorney, asked him for his advice, and that he suggested Singer immediately stop chopping off the buildings historic exterior detail work as a show of good faith, and resume negotiations with Mendez about future use of the old school at E. Ninth St. and Avenue B.
Reardon assured he had personally observed the building last Thursday to verify that demolition work had been suspended.
However, while neighbors confirmed no exterior scraping occurred last Friday, on Monday morning, the demolition workers were back on their scaffoldings chipping away at the old P.S. 64s ornate dormer windows on its fifth-floor mansard roof.
Singer hopes to overturn the buildings June landmarking by denuding its exterior. If successful in court, he would then demolish the whole building in hopes of erecting a jumbo 24-story student dormitory.
It turned out that, on Aug. 1, the Department of Buildings had issued a stop-work order, because protective sidewalk sheds had not been installed the length of the propertys Ninth and 10th St. sides and because the top of the sheds that are there were ringed with razor wire, which isnt allowed in residential neighborhoods.
Michael Rosen, an East Village Community Coalition member, said he hadnt noticed the stop-work order being posted at the site last week, but had subsequently seen it. On Monday, as the workers started hacking away again at the terracotta and limestone ornaments, neighbors raised the alarm. Police arrived at the scene to enforce the stop-work order.
By having a shorter sidewalk shed, youre endangering the public, said Jennifer Givner, a D.O.B. spokesperson. Givner said the department received notice Monday morning that the workers were at it again, but that Buildings inspectors who later arrived at the scene didnt witness any work being done. She said Singer faces fines of up to $5,000 for the two violations.
Mendez said Reardon called her and initially said Singer had agreed to stop for 24 hours. Mendez said she cant speak directly to Singer because hes suing the city. She said her attorneys subsequently spoke to Singers attorneys, who assured her that the work stoppage was indefinite. Mendez said she was unable to meet with Singer right away last Thursday because she was busy dealing with rolling brownouts in the northern end of her district in the East 30s. On Friday, according to Mendez, Singers attorney communicated that she should get back to Singer with an alternative reuse plan for the building.
He clearly is not someone to be trusted, said Mendez of Singers restarting the demolition on Monday. And he was out there chopping away while there was a stop-work order. Hes engendered no trust in the community.
Im interested in seeing how much he really wants for this building, Mendez continued, and seeing if theres someone out there who would buy it. He said he wants fair market value.
As for why she didnt answer when asked at a press conference a week ago what she thought of Singers offer to develop luxury housing with some community space at the site, Mendez said it was because of a confidentiality agreement she has with the developer over their negotiations. She said shes been advised she can only speak in general terms about their negotiations.
Singer said Reardon asked him to stop the work for just two days and that hopefully Singer would be able to speak to Mendez during the stoppage. Singer claimed he was unaware Mendezs attorneys had called his attorneys on Friday, and he said that, despite the confidentiality agreement, hes ready to speak directly to Mendez any time shes ready.
She cant find two minutes to talk to me on the phone in the last month? he asked. There are too many middlemen here.
As for the stop-work order, he said it was sent to the wrong address, 286 W. 86th St., which is not even the correct address for his development office, which is on W. 86th St. He said the first he heard of the stop-work order was when his security guard at 605 E. Ninth St. called him about it on Monday morning.
As for Mendezs query as to the market value of the building, he said its at least $50 million for the existing building and $86 million if the full air rights for a community-use facility, such as a dorm, were utilized.
So if shes got someone who can write that kind of check, tell her to call me, he said.
Singer said in about a week, once the full shed is erected and the razor wire removed, his workers will resume hacking off the buildings detail work.
Its really not fair for the government to allow this building to be a vacant eyesore, he said.