De Blasio: Old P.S. 64 owner ‘exceedingly uncooperative’ on sale

Mayor de Blasio speaking to reporters and editors at a media roundtable at Brooklyn Borough Hall last week. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Mayor Bill de Blasio is frustrated with the owner of the old P.S. 64, which has sat empty for more than two decades, he said at a recent media roundtable at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The mayor sat down with Brooklyn media outlets, including The Villager’s sister newspaper the Brooklyn Paper, as a part of “City Hall in Your Borough” last Thursday. Though the focus was on Brooklyn issues, de Blasio answered a question by Lincoln Anderson, The Villager’s editor, about the former school building on E. Ninth St.

When he was running for re-election last November, the mayor announced at a crowded Lower East Side town hall that the city was “interested in reacquiring” 605 E. Ninth St. Yet, since then, there has been little movement on the issue, and local Councilmember Carlina Rivera recently said she has heard no follow-up from the mayor about it.

At last week’s media roundtable, de Blasio said Gregg Singer, who owns the old P.S. 64, “has been exceedingly uncooperative.”

“We’ve tried to have a productive conversation about purchase,” he said. “We’ve gotten nowhere so far. We’re not giving up. We’re working very closely with the councilmember, Carlina Rivera. I’m very frustrated with that owner.”

Eminent domain, though it may not be an immediate option, is “certainly something I want to know more about, but I had hoped the best solution here would be a direct purchase,” de Blasio explained. “That’s not off the table. It’s just we’re just not getting any cooperation so far.”

The group of reporters and editors were only allowed to ask one question each.

De Blasio also spoke on the planned L train shutdown. A reporter asked what the city could do to help Williamsburg and Bushwick businesses during the subway hiatus. The mayor said the shutdown would not stop people from going to those areas since there would be more buses, cycling and ferries.

“People are still going to be moving through the same area, and you’re talking about 15 months — not limitless periods of time,” de Blasio said.

He said the city is looking at ways to support businesses, but stressed that a 15-month subway shutdown is something businesses can persevere through.

“Generally, street changes are not the core of this plan,” he said, “so that should limit the effect on small business.” He did acknowledge, however, that 14th St. in Manhattan and Grand St. in Brooklyn would see changes during the plan.

When discussing the Bronx-Queens Expressway, the mayor contrasted it with the subway plan, saying the “L train shutdown is taking a piece of mass transit offline for a very limited leg of its run.”

Under the plan, the L would be shut down between Bedford and Eighth Aves., the portion linking Manhattan and Brooklyn. Much of the L will also shut down on 15 weekends ahead of the official scheduled closure date in April.

The Villager also asked de Blasio about the ongoing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of five alternatives to protect 2,000 miles of shoreline in New York and New Jersey from storm-surge flooding.

The mayor said he met with the Corps in January, and they discussed beach erosion in the Rockaways.

“Our team is constantly in touch with them in our Washington office and our resiliency team here,” de Blasio said.

He emphasized this is about addressing the long-term solution to protect the city’s shorelines, and that “any kind of barrier approach is a long process.”

One alternative is a 5-mile barrier connecting Breezy Point to Sandy Hook. The Corps will narrow down the five alternatives to two by this fall.

“I don’t want people sort of having a panacea feeling that there’s an easy answer around the corner,” de Blasio said, “but we are trying to sort it out with the Army Corps, and I think they are focused, obviously understanding that this is one of the populous areas they have to deal with.”

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