Will new cracks in facade break old P.S. 64 stalemate?

Carlos “Chino” Garcia, executive director of CHARAS, speaking at Thursday’s press conference, with Save Our CHARAS/Old P.S. 64 activist Susan Howard, to the left of him, the day after a crack on the facade of the old P.S. 64 caused four buildings on E. 10th St. between Avenues B and C to be evacuated. Photos by Sarah Ferguson

BY SARAH FERGUSON | Local leaders are pressuring Mayor de Blasio to follow through with his pledge to buy back the former P.S. 64 school building in the East Village, after a crack spotted on its east wall forced the temporary evacuation of four neighboring tenements on Wednesday.

Although city inspectors later ruled the building did not pose an imminent hazard, residents on E. 10th St., who were forced out of their homes in the cold for hours, fear it’s only a matter of time before something worse happens.

“This is a blight on the city and the Lower East Side,” declared East Village Councilmember Carlina Rivera at a rally Thursday outside the crumbling, turn-of-the century landmark.

The building has stood empty and in disrepair for the last 20 years due to the city’s protracted stalemate with the owner, Gregg Singer, who has been seeking to convert it to a multi-school dormitory.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera, speaking at podium, said the situation with the long-vacant old P.S. 64 has been allowed to fester for far too long and is now “a danger to our community.”

In 2006, Singer went so far as to hack off the terracotta trim from the building’s ornate dormer windows in a failed effort to block the landmarking of the school — a tactic that left the windows and large areas of brick exposed to the elements.

“At this point, it’s not just an eyesore, it’s a danger to our community,” said Rivera, pointing to the more than 30 open violations for everything from unsafe scaffolding to cracks in the facade and masonry.

Rivera and the area’s other elected officials are now using the building’s deteriorating conditions as leverage to pressure de Blasio to restore it as a community and arts facility along the lines of CHARAS/El Bohio, the Puerto Rican-run center that occupied the building before former Mayor Rudy Giuliani sold it to Singer at auction in 1998.

“It’s going to take another mayor to change this and do the right thing,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer declared at Thursday’s press conference. “We need Mayor de Blasio to keep his word,” he said, referring to the offer de Blasio made during a 2017 campaign forum to “look into reacquiring” the building for the community.

The crack atop the building’s northeast corner on E. 10th St. that caused the building evacuations.

Stringer said he would make restoring the building a top priority during his budget briefing with the mayor, and after the rally, a spokesperson confirmed that he had already spoken to de Blasio about it.

State Senator Brad Hoylman accused Singer of engaging in a strategy of “demolition by neglect.”

“Mayor de Blasio, honor your promise,” he told the news cameras. “Let’s save CHARAS before it’s too late.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the building would be a “perfect opportunity” for eminent domain.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “We’re in contact with representatives for the owner and we are exploring options with them.

Developer Gregg Singer was on cordoned-off E. 10th St. after nearby buildings were evacuated.

Just what options the mayor has is unclear. Singer has repeatedly said he has no interest in selling. On Thursday, a spokesperson for Singer blasted the notion of the city reclaiming the building for some as-yet-to-be-identified group or use as “un-American and unconstitutional.”

“It is fundamentally wrong for the government to sell property at public auction and then demand it back, just so it can hand it over to another private owner as a political favor,” said Singer’s PR rep Nicole Epstein in an e-mail to The Villager.

If the city were to pursue eminent domain, it would have to pay market value for the property, which Singer purchased for a scant $3.15 million.

The former office of CHARAS/El Bohio inside the old P.S. 64 is now filled with design renderings of what developer Gregg Singer’s “University House” dorm would look like.

Singer told The Villager he has spent more than $50 million on maintenance, legal costs and his ongoing efforts to market and develop the property — monies he claims he’d have to be compensated for.

In fact, Singer claims the city could be liable for up to $250 million if a judge were to consider the value of the building “built out” — a figure that State Assemblyman Harvey Epstein called “ludicrous” when told about it at Thursday’s rally.

Nevertheless, Epstein believes it would be worthwhile to reacquire the 152,000-square-foot property, even it means paying Singer many times what he bought it for.

“If we lose this building, we lose it forever,” Epstein argued. “Our schools don’t have gyms. We need space for after-school programs. We need this. We’re already losing so much community space,” he added, pointing to pending sale of the Boys Club on Avenue A.

Singer for his part blamed the city for the building’s deteriorating conditions.

“How can I fix the building if they won’t give me a building permit?” he demanded. “We are in court trying to get a judge to force the city to issue a building permit because the city refuses to issue it.

“None of this would be happening if the city would just let me move forward with the dorm plan,” he said. “It’s so silly.”

Developer Gregg Singer walks through the vacant former old P.S. 64 last Wednesday after a crack on the building’s facade forced the evacuation of nearby buildings on E. 10th St.

He accused city and elected officials of overplaying safety concerns as a ploy to force him out of the building.

“This is a pressure tactic,” he told The Villager on Wednesday when the block was still cordoned off by police and fire officials. “They want us to give up and sell the building back. It’s all bullshit. There’s no imminent danger. Everything is the same as it’s been.”

Singer said the crack snaking down the eastern facade had “been there for years,” and said a private surveyor had recently told him the school was in relatively “good shape” for an empty building.

Ever the salesman, Singer even invited this reporter inside the gutted husk of the former school to lobby for the benefits of his “University House” dorm scheme.

“It’s perfect for the community,” he said. “It’s perfect for the stores. Right now there’s a lot of [store] vacancy. They need people, and the students need space,” he maintained. As he spoke, he stood in the former office of CHARAS, which has been refurbished with clean white tables and colorful renderings of the swanky dorm suites and recreation rooms.

As E. 10th St. was cordoned off on Wednesday, Singer held up a sign for his Web site for the old school, which he has been unable to redevelop for more than two decades. His early plans for the building — which was later landmarked by the city — called for its full or partial demolition and replacing it with a high-rise dormitory tower.

Outside, Singer was confronted by a neighboring property owner.

“What’s going on?” demanded Ricky Seltzer, who owns a four-story tenement adjacent to the old school. “You’re depreciating all the property values on the block,” she told the developer. “I’ve been standing in the cold for five hours. What am I going to tell my tenants? God forbid something happens. I can’t have this on my conscience. I have to take out extra insurance because of you,” she railed.

One of her tenants, Jason Goodrow, was eyeing the large crack on the top northeastern corner of the school, which is directly above his bedroom window.

“I have two small children, so it’s alarming on a daily basis,” he said.

18 Responses to Will new cracks in facade break old P.S. 64 stalemate?

  1. Did Singer fix the plumbing? When I was last there, holes in the basement sewage pipes spilled feces throughout the bottom floors. It was gross!

  2. Unlandmark it, let him tear it down and build something else. Problem solved

    • jerk.
      We need the building back for community use for our unmet needs. Community knows what community needs best. not outside profiteers.
      The Lower East Side is NOT FOR SALE
      STOP displacing our community, our culture, and the future of our children.
      The auction was a travesty, and this developer NEVER met the terms of the deed restriction. That timeframe should've expired and the city should take it back!!!

      • To damn bad. The city sold it. It's now private property. All the jihad against this guy has succeeded in doing has been to create a blight on the neighborhood.

        The city and it's worthless politicians never allowed him to meet the deed restrictions.

        If they want it back, they can seize ti by eminent domain, and pay him full fair market value.

        Note: I see Singer is posting here. He should be suing the city and the politicians involved for interfering with his ability to develop the property

  3. He signed the lease in bad faith. Sue him and give him his 3.5 million back. Plus interest if he doesn't fight the suit.

  4. I offered to buy the Boys Club on 10th St. and Avenue A and lease it to the City of NY (CNY)but they weren’t interested “no need for a community center “. My family is from LES. My great grandfather Louis Singer gave up his land and building for his non profit named Home of Old Israel (Home), which provided free housing, meals and services for the aged, and gave it to CNY in 1929 so they could build Gouverneur Hospital. Then Louis purchased the old Beth Israel Hospital for the Home. In 1965 Jacob Singer, my grandfather gave up the property so CNY could build LaGuardia Houses. Moved the home to an 1,100 unit apartment complex Jacob built in Far Rockaway called Seagirt Village. In the 1970’s the family merged the Home into JASA. The Singer family works with government when it is legitimate. The CNY has a major need for affordable student housing and we had Cooper Union College and Adelphi University with signed leases. The CNY response is there were no assurance the building would be a dorm. Fake News is Alive in the East Village. The CNY wants to give the building to Aaron Sosnick who has paid millions to local politicians and nonprofits to be against the dorm so he can build a dorm. See history at http://www.oldps64.com

    • LES for the People

      “Fake News”

      Come now, Mr. Singer, your propaganda would be far more effective in this neighborhood if you took even the most basic efforts to hide your obvious appreciation for our current president.

  5. Why are you lying so much, Mr. Singer?

  6. I would rather live next to the crack than homeless out in the cold.

    Tear it down, build a highrise and use the entire ground floor for the community.

  7. Singer is in the hole to Madison Realty Capital who at this point are the real property decision makers. Singer is burning the money he borrowed to payTrump's former lawyers at Gotham LLC, Singer with his Maga gang is done.

    Singer sued to have the property devalued so he could pay less taxes. Offer him via Eminent Domain the value of the property NYCDoF valuation he sued to have lowered. Then he will owe Madison, hah!

  8. YYYY,

    Thanks for the support to help this community. We have over 1,500 signatures from people who actually live near the building and want to see the building renovated for the college dorm. These signatures were generated by locals on their own and given to me to show their support. Carlina and the Mayor know this and have the signatures but they follow the money from their benefactor not the people in the community.

    The people who say they want a community center are out of touch with the reality of the needs of the community or don’t understand the politicians are out for themselves not the people. I offered to buy and lease to the City of NY the Boys Club one block away that is already renovated with a pool, basketball court, theater, music rooms etc and they weren’t interested. Do you think they care about where all the kids will go, no. What about the St. Brigid’s Kids, they will let them close the school there too when just the excess cash flow from the dorm with its air rights I purchased at auction could have kept the school open. See http://www.oldps64.com These politicians Carlina, Blasio, Hoylman, Stringer,Epstein care about their benefactor not people in the community. They say demolition by neglect, they don’t say oh yeah we won’t give him a building permit, we forgot to tell you that. We have had a few large non profits interested in the last two months but the politicians told them to stay away “the building is spoken for “, meaning Carlina and the Mayor want to give it to their benefactor. All this will come out in court. We are currently in State court for the judge to declare what is required to get a building permit because the City of NY DOB will not follow the rules on the books that we have complied with so we need what’s called a “Declaratory Judgement “ setting the rules. We are in Federal Court for damages for the costs and penalties for all this illegal, wrongful government action against ownership and the community.

    There is a huge shortage of college dormitories in Manhattan and the neighborhood needs more people as evidenced by all the retail vacancy. When I talk to local storeowners they say the biggest problem is not the rent but there aren’t enough people living in the area.

    We have told City Hall if you have a legitimate use that complies with the Deed restriction for a Community Facility Use and it can support the market rents that any bank financing requires we would look at that seriously. We even offered to do a Veterans center to house and educate military when they come back from the field to help them get ready for jobs etc but Carlina and Blasio weren’t interested. Carlina and Blasio have not come up with even one use for the building. But they don’t have a use they want to give it to their benefactor for his dorm as reported to us by his developer/contractor or others have said he wants to remove the Deed Restriction for high end condos, think Rivington. Where is all the outrage against Brewer, Hoylman, Stringer and Epstein ?

    Follow the money trail, tax returns, lobbyist filings, FOIL’s etc and it is crystal clear what is happening here. This all will come out in court. Like a fine wine it takes time. We have the time and patience so eventually we believe a judge in their final decision after appeals will not say “ this building cannot be renovated and must stay vacant forever “. Although Carlina and the Mayor would like that until this gets resolved.

    Someone mentioned financing and the way financing is today the lenders will only make a loan for a few years so when it goes into default for approximately one year more or less than it gets refinanced. This has happened three times so far on this property. Depending on how you value this property the loan to value is between 23% to 34% meaning a low loan to value so it can be repeatedly refinanced. The lenders prefer the short term loans so they can generate fees every time they refinance the property.

    For the naysayers where are your tenants that need the building ? Where is your outrage against the politicians for not allowing the building to be renovated by issuing building permits ?

    • LES for the People

      Guiliani sold you this building as part of a corrupt deal that went around the needs, aspirations and desires of this community. Frankly, it should not have been yours to have, and I and the rest of the community are tired of greedy profit-hungry private developers like you hiding behind their legal right to exploit land for personal profit and to the detriment of the broader community.

      This community needs college dormitories? Don’t make us laugh, Mr. Singer. We need more dorms like we need a boil on our forehead. Do some research on this community before you make laughably out-of-touch arguments in your defense.

    • We need fewer children in religious schools, not more, so St. Brigid is no help to your cause.
      We buy online now, so more people in the neighborhood is no help either.
      Developers have built on ever vacant lot, parking lot, and gas station in the area, so there are more retail spaces than ever, so not only are businesses screwed, so are you.
      Demand has been revolutionized by the digital age so that it will never again catch up with Supply.
      In real non-speculative numbers, CHARAS is worth less now than when Guliani gave it to you (and look what's become of that ghoul. yikes!).

      A lot has changed in 20 years. Most of it not in your favor. Honestly, I feel bad for you.

  9. LES the people have spoken: Build the Dorm !

    Where is your financially viable tenant ? It’s been 20 years.

    Time to get specific and stop saying you want a community center with no tenant, it doesn’t make any sense. Who is the tenant ? Who is paying the rent ? That is how the real world works. A tenant pays rent and the rent pays the expenses including the mortgage on building. The city won’t give a permit without a tenant so who is it ? Of course you know they will do the same thing say it’s not a valid lease because they want the building for their benefactor. However, if there is a bonafide tenant lets get a lease and send it to the DOB.

    Just rhetoric from the naysayers but no solutions.

    Ok I need to go work on other properties in community’s that are thankful we are there to make a difference. I will check back later to see the new nonsense or more of the same.

    • LES for the People

      "Financially viable tenant" = Because of profit-hungry developers like you, there are no community-focused tenants left able to afford the astronomically-high rents that developers seek. Because of profit-hungry developers like you, community organizations and the poor are being priced out of their own neighborhoods. Because of profit-hungry developers like you, all that's left able to afford the rents you demand are guaranteed profit-making tenants like luxury condos and big box stores.

      Mr. Singer, the problem is not that community-based tenants don't want the space, the problem is that your eyes are full of dollar signs and you can't bear the idea of giving the space over to anyone who can't sake your relentless thirst for ever increasing profits. It is simply illogical to not seek the highest return on your investment. If the community can't cough up the rent, that's on them, not you.

      Look, you're not unique in that respect. This is what you've been taught, what you have learned, what has been instilled in you as your God-given right as a private developer. It's the same with any private developer, it's what this country teaches you.

      To you, it is simply not your responsibility to think of anything else besides how much money you can make off of this property. Again, that's not unique to you. You've been blinded to human considerations, and so when the community protests, you have nothing but scorn for people who "don't get how the real world works".

  10. The LES for the People writer here has no idea how the real world works. You certainly don't represent the many people I have met and know in the LES. Not everyone has your sense of entitlement. Most people get up in the morning and go to work, pay their rent or mortgage, feed their family etc. For those who can't there are programs for that paid for people like me and other tax payers. This is a privately owned property bought at a NYC public auction with 13 bidders. I was the winning bidder for the site with zoning and deed restriction for a community facility use. Not as some say a community use, that's a made up zoning term that doesn't exist in the NYC zoning code. Zoning could have been something else but it is not. There is no financial or income restriction. The zoning allows a college student dormitory. The fact that are projected rents happen to be below market is our choice but not required. Financially viable tenant means the project makes sense for the people who make investments to improve properties and neighborhoods, debt and equity providers.

    We can also lease to other non profit tenants but the politicians told them to stay away from the project. At first,15 to 20 years ago, before the college student dormitory plans, non profits were told by the city council women that she will make sure the city, state and federal government will not support their organizations if they rented at the old PS64 even though our rent was $12.50 per square foot (before 20 years of carry) when the market rent was $18 per sq. ft. Now 20 years later the non profits are told by Carlina and Mayor de Blasio the building is spoken for, meaning they want to give it to their benefactor.

    Way before you were born my family was providing free and low income housing, meals and recreation for seniors in the LES. So before you judge people you should get your facts straight instead of saying the same talking points as everyone else for 20 years.

  11. LES for the People —

    You want to know what money buys? It buys you the ability to keep a building vacant for the past 20 years, despite signed leases with cooper union. joffrey ballet school, and adelphi university ALL because you don't want to live next to a dorm.

    Speaking of the 'outraged community groups' in desperate need of affordable space bc they are being priced out, are you by any chance referring to the East Village Community Coalition ("EVCC") AKA the community group crying about need for affordable space YET are stationed in the PH of the christodora building next to PS 64 ….the same EVCC where the founder is the one of the top political donors in the entire UNITED STATES,… the same EVCC who's founder runs a multi billion dollar hedge fund on wall street and has consistently donated the most, every single year, to all of the "passionate" LES elected officials that stand at the PS64 rallies as well as the other groups such as GVHSP-BERMAN? The same EVCC that pays over $20,000.00 per year to lobbyists connected to de blasio (the same lobbyists ironically tied to the horrible rivington situation, and other notably high rise developers) to "oppose ps 64 used as a dormitory" simply because the founder lives in his comfy PH and doesn't want to live next to a dorm?! The same community group where the very building they are located, the founders PH building, HAS BEEN TRYING TO LIFT A DEED RESTRCTION FOR A COMMUNITY FACILITY USE for years now???? Before ranting on some news article, you should do your community some real service and start to research the facts.

    "We need more dorms like we need a boil on our forehead." REALLY?! Instead, the LES would rather continue to have a vacant building for another 20 years LMAO.

    LES for the people — since you're a member of the OUTRAGED community and such an advocate, why not identify yourself?

    Where was NYC with their MILLIONS of dollars to save the Boys club down the block??? AKA a REAL community group using a building for the past 100 years? There must not be an angry billionaire hedge fund operator living next to it so it get a quarter of the attention this building that has been vacant for over 20 years gets. FUNNY.

    The hypocrisy KILLS me.

  12. LES for the People

    Forgive my spelling mistakes, writing this on my phone.

    Mr. Singer, your bromides about what little you’ve given back to the community pales in comparison to the damage you and other private developers have done to this community.

    The fact that your wealth gave you access to and corrupted our political process does not suddenly make it okay that your deal with Guiliani is okay because it had a government stamp of approval. It doesn’t excuse the continued corrupting influence you and other exorbitantly wealthy people have over our current politicos (nor does it excuse our politicians from lacking a spine). I don’t care which billionaire is on which side of this issue, they’re all corrupt and greedy. Doesn’t matter if you’re Sheldon Adelson or Warren Buffet.

    As the owner of PS64, you are responsible for its current dangerously damaged state. If you cared about our community, you could have at least maintained it to a state where it’s not blighted. If you REALLY cared about our community, you would have realized long ago, from the legal blockades we’ve erected and defended, that we don’t want some rich guy coming in and deciding on his own what this former beacon of the community should become. you could have returned it to the government (but of course, you’d lose a ton of speculative future profits!) You could have turned it over to the community. But no, you’re hard-wired to exploit the property for your personal gain, community be damned.

    I’m sorry your investment property hasn’t been a smooth transition to a profit-making dorm building, but the community is using what little power it has through the political-legal process to stop you.

    I have to wonder, Mr. singer, if your lack of maintainance isn’t intentional? The more blighted and dangerous the building, the easier it is to lean on the community and say “give me my dorms or I’ll let this building crumble to the ground. And if you happen to be in the way when that happens, you could get hurt or worse. Aren’t you tired of fighting me? Aren’t you tired of this blight? Just give me my dorms and this can all be over”

    This community has had enough of the bullying, enough of the greed leading to our community being turned out on its heels. We’ve had Rivingtin House, Two Bridges, tenant harassment, NYU dorms every which where, exploding buildings from neglegent landlords. We, rightly so, do not trust you Mr. Singer. We know you may say you’re a man of the people, that you’ve helped seniors and whatnot. But we’ve seen many, many others do the same, only to turn around and say “Now pay up for my condos, and if you can’t, f off”. You are no different

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