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De Blasio wants to buy back East Village’s embattled P.S. 64 site

It’s current owner, however, has no plans to sell

The long and winding saga of the East Village’s former P.S. 64 building continues. The latest development: Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a town hall on Thursday that the city has interest in buying the property at 605 East Ninth Street between avenues B and C, despite the fact that the owner of the property has expressed no desire to sell, DNAinfo reports.

To briefly recap the multi-decade epic: Back in 1998, developer Gregg Singer bought the property from the city for $3.15 million. Locals wanted the one-time elementary school to be converted into a community center, in accordance with the deed, which earmarked the 152,000-square-foot building for community use.

According to Singer’s interpretation, that meant he could move ahead converting the place into a school, dorm, medical, museum, or non-profit space. In the intervening years, Singer has been in talks with multiple institutions like Cooper Union, the Joffrey Ballet School, and Adelphi University about turning at least some portion of the property into dorms.

But in 2015, the city issued a stop-work order for the project, because, while Singer’s dorm deal had been initially approved, it was ultimately found to violate a city mandate that regulates when and how dorms do and don’t meet the community facility requirement of some deeds, DNAInfo explained in January.

Adelphi University, who had agreed to move forward with dorms at the site, backed out of its prospective lease last week over lack of progress. Meanwhile, Singer continues to battle with the city and surrounding community over the terms of the property’s deed.

According to Singer’s lawyer, the ongoing legal fuss is not about the project’s adherence to the city’s Dorm Rule. It’s about the fact that at least some of the community doesn’t want dorms there at all (a move that those who adamantly opposed private dorms in the building cop to.)

There’s at least one major flaw with de Blasio’s pronouncement that the city would be interested in buying back the property: Singer’s spokeswoman told DNAinfo he has “absolutely no plans to give the building back.” She also said “the city is trying to be a bully here.”

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, meanwhile, declined to respond to questions about how the city would acquire the building and how much it might pay. (Singer’s spokeswoman says it is currently appraised at $60 million.)

While some community members have been vocal anti-dorm advocates, others are in favor of anything that would get the property restored. A petition asking the city to allow the dorm plan to move forward has garnered about 900 signatures from locals in the area.

“[W]e have proved that the vast majority of the immediate community is in favor of this building permit going through as a dorm for Adelphi,” Jorge de Yarza, who lives on 11th Street and Avenue B, told DNAInfo. “Because bottom line is it's a 100,000-square-foot eyesore that has been there forever for no reason.”

P.S. 64

350 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009