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Developer sues city over long-delayed East Village school conversion

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It's been a 20-year battle between the developer and the community

The battle over the fate of P.S. 64, a former public school in the East Village, rages on. As the Wall Street Journal succinctly puts it, "Developer Gregg Singer wants to turn a century-old public school building he owns in Manhattan’s East Village into a dormitory. The community wants the building back."

The back-and-forth has been going on for 20 years now. The latest development? Singer has just filed a lawsuit in federal court complaining his project was illegally blocked by a "conspiracy" of local elected officials, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and a hedge-fund manger, Aaron Sosnick, who lives next to the school building.

Some background: Singer purchased the five-story building, which had been in use as a community center, at an auction in 1999 for $3.15 million. Since the sale, locals have wanted the onetime elementary school to be converted back into a community center in accordance with the deed, which earmarked the 152,000-square-foot building for community use.

But in Singer’s interpretation, he felt 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. The latest proposal was to restore the 1906 building and create a 535-bed dormitory (a rendering for which is seen above) with three outdoor gardens, a gym, health center, game room, and music practice rooms to serve students at local colleges.

But the community protests didn't subside, and this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio inserted himself in the battle when he told a community meeting that the city wants to buy back the building.

Singer is now claiming in the suit that various groups have worked together to pressure the mayor’s office to delay Department of Building's decisions involving the dorm plans. The 20-year delay, the lawsuit claims, has become "a case of seller’s remorse as much as it is a case about a vindictive political plot aimed at improperly reclaiming property legally sold by New York City.”

In a statement to WSJ, the DOB says that the agency acted properly in twice denying the developer’s application for a permit, because he "failed to submit sufficient proof that the building would be used as a student dormitory."

All the while, the building has sat vacant. Some community members are now in favor of anything that would get the property restored, and a petition circulated last year asking the city to allow the dorm plan to move forward.

P.S. 64

350 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009