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P.S. 64 owner may face fines, legal action over building’s lack of repairs

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LPC has ordered the owner to repair the facade or potentially face legal action and daily fines

The former P.S. 64 building in the East Village.
Caroline Spivack/Curbed NY

The chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission has ordered the owner of the former P.S. 64 building to repair the deteriorating landmark or face legal action from the commission and daily fines, according to a letter obtained by Curbed.

Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Sarah Carroll penned what is known as a chair’s order to Gregg Singer—owner of the long-vacant 350 East 10th Street building—on March 4, noting that the former schoolhouse is in a state of “disrepair” with masonry exposed to the elements, cracked chimneys, and “compromised” facade elements, according to the mandate.

Under landmarks law, Singer is required to keep the building in good condition, but after LPC inspectors visited the property they determined the building requires immediate repairs, and if Singer doesn’t comply he could be hit with $5,000 penalties per day and even legal action from the city.

“The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission herby order you ... to expeditiously take appropriate action to bring the subject property to a condition of good repair, including addressing the above cited conditions,” Carroll wrote.

Singer shrugged off the mandate and said that while he’s working with LPC to address their concerns “it’s no big deal.” A structural engineer is in the midst of assessing the building to make repairs, Singer said. “I’m in touch with [LPC] all the time. It’s not an issue,” Singer said Tuesday.

The LPC confirmed that Singer has hired an engineer to evaluate the property and prepare a report on its conditions for the commission, according to landmarks spokesperson Zodet Negron. Once the commission has received and reviewed the report, the agency will meet with Singer to discuss next steps.

Singer is in the midst of a years-long standoff with the city over developing the property. He currently aims to convert the building—which held the CHARAS/El Bohio Community Center before the Giuliani administration auctioned off the property to Singer two decades ago—into dorms, but the Department of Buildings determined that the project violates what is referred to as the city’s Dorm Rule, and served him with a stop work order in 2015 that remains in place, according to Department of Buildings records.

A cadre of locals and elected officials have pressed the city to return the property to the neighborhood as a community resource. Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to reacquire the building at an October 2017 town hall, but has made few steps toward that goal and has kept local elected officials in the dark on plans to reclaim the structure—whether through eminent domain or other means.

The city has been in minimal contact with Singer since the mayor’s 2017 declaration and has not yet made him an offer for the building, Singer said Tuesday. The Mayor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

In the meantime, the building has been plagued with one problem after the other. The city evacuated residents of apartment buildings surrounding the property in early February after spotting cracks on the exterior facade. A week later the DOB issued a full vacate order for the schoolhouse, citing “cracks, gaps, and deterioration” in the building’s facade and decorative elements that have “the potential to fall into the street and yards.” Singer has an April 4 hearing set with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on a violation for failing to maintain the building set for April 4 where Singer and his structural engineer will petition the violation.

City Council member Carlina Rivera, who represents the East Village, has called the poorly maintained building a “blight” on the East Village and says instead of seeing the landmark transformed into a productive use, Singer has allowed the building to languish over the last 20 years.

“It’s not just an eyesore, it has been neglected and it has the potential to be something so much greater and better for this community,” Rivera said at a February news conference.