The city issued a full vacate order for the beleaguered East Village landmark that once housed P.S. 64 some two weeks ago after discovering deteriorating conditions have made the building “unsafe to occupy”—and the landlord says that’s news to him.
A Department of Buildings inspector visited the structure at 350 East 10th Street on February 13, a week after the city evacuated buildings beside the former schoolhouse over safety concerns. The next day, the city issued a full vacate order to the property, citing “visible cracks, gaps, and deterioration” in decorative elements of the building’s exterior with “the potential to fall into the street and yards,” DOB records show.
But the property’s landlord, Gregg Singer, claims he was unaware of the vacate order until this reporter reached him for comment Friday. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t spend a lot of time there,” Singer told Curbed.
“It’s so silly. They close off the street and say some pieces may fly off the building, but the building is no different than it was a day before, a month before, a year before because it’s a 100-year-old building,” Singer continued, noting that the super let Con Edison into the building Friday to turn on the property’s electricity. “Why doesn’t the city stop playing games and give us permits to renovate the building if it’s so important to them.”
Singer, who has a small office in the building, was given a violation for failing to maintain the building—with it a maximum penalty of $25,000—on February 6 after a 311 caller reported cracks in the building. A DOB inspector determined that the structure was safe and did not pose an imminent safety threat, but that the conditions may become hazardous without repairs.
A week later the DOB issued a Commissioner’s Order to Singer, requiring he hire a structural engineer to evaluate the entire building and facade and provide the DOB with a report on their findings, according to DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky.
That report is due March 21 or potentially later if the owner is “actively cooperating with the Department to achieve this goal,” said Rudansky. Once the city has reviewed the engineering report, DOB will require Singer to make any necessary repairs.
The full vacate order was also issued due to the risk of falling debris. It will remain in place until any necessary repair work is complete or until the buildings department deems that no further repairs are needed, according to Rudansky.
Elected officials and local leaders were quick to rail against the crumbling building as a “blight” on the East Village after residents were evacuated from their homes and called for the de Blasio administration to hasten its efforts to reacquire the property from Singer—who bought it from the Giuliani administration in a 1998 auction.
Singer’s efforts to develop the building have been stymied over the years. His latest plan to convert the building into dorms stalled after the city concluded that the project would violate what is known as the city’s Dorm Rule, and served him with a stop-work order that remains in place.
The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings issued Singer a hearing summons on the violation for failing to maintain the building set for April 4, where Singer says he and his structural engineer will make their case against the violation.