The city evacuated buildings beside an embattled former schoolhouse after discovering cracks in the building, according to fire and building department officials.
Inspectors and engineers with the Department of Buildings (DOB) investigated cracks at 350 East 10th Street’s facade after a 311 call Wednesday morning, a building spokesperson said. The discovery prompted fire officials to evacuate four nearby apartment buildings—346, 348, 362, and 364 East 10th Street—as a safety precaution, fire ans building department officials said.
No injuries were reported and a Con Edison crew was also on the scene, said FDNY. The building’s owner, Gregg Singer, said “it was all a bunch of nothing” and charged opponents to his plans for the building with creating a fuss.
“It’s all political. This is part of a concerted effort to put pressure on us,” Singer told Curbed. “I was just at the building. There’s definitely cracks—that we were already aware of—that will be pointed and repaired, but there’s no immediate danger.”
After surveying the building, city inspectors determined that the building is safe but did issue a violation to Singer for failure to maintain the exterior facade for cracks observed on the corner of the building at the third floor, a DOB spokesman said.
“DOB Engineers on site have inspected the entire building, and have found that the building is not in imminent danger of collapse, and does not currently pose a danger to the public,” said DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky in a statement. The vacate orders for the evacuated buildings have since been lifted.
Singer has sought to transform the controversy-laden building, which has sat vacant for more than 20 years, into college dormitories. But neighborhood groups and elected officials have long-fought the project and insist the building be converted into a community center.
The city once owned the building, which became known as the CHARAS/El Bohio Community Center, but sold the property to Singer in 1998. At the time, activists railed against the city’s plan to sell the parcel, but the auction went ahead and Singer acquired the building for $3.15 million.
In October 2017, Mayor Bill De Blasio stoked hopes that the property could convert back into a community center when he announced, shortly before the mayoral election, that the city aims to reacquire the building. The city took little action for several months and in August 2018 Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that the city has “tried to have a productive conversation about purchase” but that he is “very frustrated with that owner” who the mayor claimed was stone walling the city.
Singer shot back saying that he “was astonished at the brazenness of the mayor’s lie” and said he had heard no word from the mayor’s office since the 2017 announcement.
In the meantime, Singer has been unable to move forward with his plans to turn the building into dorms after the city concluded that the proposal violated what is commonly referred to as the city’s Dorm Rule and served the site with a stop work order that remains in place, according to the DOB. Singer is in the midst of suing the city to develop the land.