Volume 76, Number 39 | February 21 -27, 2007

High waters at the old P.S. 64

By Lincoln Anderson

The basement of the old P.S. 64 was flooded on Saturday after a water valve inside the building failed. The basement of the old school — formerly home to the CHARAS/El Bohio community and cultural center — filled with up to 6 feet of water and caused flooding up to 3 feet high in the basements of buildings directly to the east and west. It was neighboring residents who first noticed something was amiss when they discovered that their own basements had been flooded.

On Saturday, firefighters helped a Department of Environmental Protection employee gain access to the boarded-up and locked building, and the D.E.P. employee located the source of the water.

Ian Michaels, a D.E.P. spokesperson, said, “They discovered a faulty valve in the school’s basement. It had failed.” He said D.E.P. crews that night dug up Ninth St. outside the old school and shut off the valve at the service connection, which routes water from the water main into the building. As opposed to the water main, the service connection and the valve inside the building are the building owner’s responsibility, he said.

However, a reporter told Michaels that he had still heard the sound of rushing water inside the basement when he listened outside a ground-level window around midnight on Saturday. Michaels said that he’d send the D.E.P. employee back to check it out in case the service-connection valve was not holding.

Sebastian Blanck, a folk musician who lives next door, said, “We found out about it at 5 [on Saturday] because we were cold. My wife went down to check out the boiler — and that’s how we found out.” Blanck said they haven’t had time to assess the damage, but that several paintings by his wife stored in the basement were ruined. Their boiler’s aquastat was also damaged, so their hot water is unregulated, only coming out scalding hot.

Gregg Singer, old P.S. 64’s owner, did not return phone calls. The turn-of-the-century school was landmarked last year. In a series of lawsuits, Singer is suing the city to remove the landmarking designation, give him a building permit so he can build a towering dormitory and compensate him with at least $100 million in damages for blocking his long-delayed project.

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