Volume 74, Number 30 | December 01 - 07, 2004

Demolition permit is sought for former CHARAS/El Bohio

By Lincoln Anderson

The fight to preserve the old public school building off Avenue B most recently home to CHARAS/El Bohio continues. Yet, developer Gregg Singer is rapidly moving ahead with plans to demolish the former P.S. 64’s rear portion to construct a 19-story, 222-room university dormitory, while preserving the existing building’s historic Ninth St. facade.

Singer filed for a demolition permit with the Department of Buildings on Nov. 19. According to Jennifer Givner, a D.O.B. spokesperson, the description on the plan reads to “demolish part of building as shown on drawings.” Richard Blinder, the architect of the project, told The Villager last week the plan is to demolish the rear of the old “H” school building — where the “wings” of the “H” are longest, so the dorm tower can be built. Blinder said if the entire building were preserved it would just mean a taller, 30-story building.

Givner said the application was given to a plan examiner on Nov. 22 and the review could be finished in a week or two from that date. If it is approved, Singer could immediately start demolition.

“The only thing that would hold it up is if the building was calendared for landmarking,” said Givner.

Singer has applied for several other permits, including for construction of a new foundation and installation of underground plumbing — both were disapproved by D.O.B. — as well as for a pavement plan.

However, Robert Tierney, commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, did not offer much hope for saving the entire building. When The Villager spoke to him early Tuesday evening, he hurriedly said he only had a few minutes to talk and was “late for several meetings.”

Told partial demolition of the building appears imminent, Tierney said, “I don’t know of any demolition permits that have been filed. I haven’t seen it — I’m not going to comment on it. I don’t believe that that’s the case.”

Asked if Landmarks plans to calendar the building for a designation hearing and if he thought the commission would ultimately landmark it, Tierney said, “We’re looking at that — at all the issues related to that site. We’re still in the process of review.” To date, the building has not been calendared by Landmarks.

Carol Irving, executive director of the East Village Community Coalition, said, “We are devastated by these permits he applied for and we are working with Councilmember Margarita Lopez and the community doing everything we can. We hope the city and everyone will understand how important this issue is and what an important weathervane for the neighborhood the original P.S. 64 was and continues to be. This is something that will have a devastating effect on the community,” she said of the dorm project.

Another town hall meeting on saving the old P.S. 64 will be held on Wed., Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m., at Robert E. Simon School, the new P.S. 64, at E. Sixth St. and Avenue B. Politicians signing the meeting’s invitation include Councilmembers Margarita Lopez and Alan Gerson, State Senators Steve Sanders and Martin Connor, Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez and District Leader Rosie Mendez.

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