Emotional hearing held on Lower East Side school

Landmarking process begins for P.S. 64, a former school,now facing renovation. On May 16, 2006, Landmarks heard emotional testimony regarding the potential designation of P. S. 64 at 605 East 9th Street in the East Village.

P.S. 64 was built in 1903-04 by C. B. J. Snyder, then superintendent of school buildings for the City. The school is in the French Renaissance Revival style, and built in Snyder’s signature H-plan to maximize light and air at the mid-block site. Several schools designed by Snyder have already been designated landmarks, including Stuyvesant High School and Flushing High School. One of P.S. 64’s innovative features is an auditorium that is directly accessible from the street. When the school was closed in the 1970s, the building morphed into the Charas/ El Bohio community center.

In 1998, a private owner, Gregg Singer, purchased the building and planned to transform it into a dormitory. Buildings denied Singer’s dorm permit application when he failed to show any connection to a New York City school. Singer appealed to BSA, which upheld Buildings’ denial. 2 CityLand 152 (Nov. 15, 2005).

At the hearing, the standing-room-only audience included Council Member Rosie Mendez, who called P.S. 64 an important community educational and cultural institution. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblywomen Sylvia Freedman and Deborah Glick, and Senator Martin Connor all sent representatives urging designation. Resident Lillian Lifflander, who grew up in the neighborhood, spoke of the school uniting the many fractious ethnic groups that once populated the area, and the pride immigrant parents took in the school.

Opponents were greeted with hisses from some members of the audience. Resident Allen Bortnick testified that a dormitory would be a benefit to the neighborhood, and that the school had outlived its usefulness.

After public testimony ended, Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney announced that the owner had requested an extension of time to present evidence. Landmarks had written assurance that P.S. 64 would not be touched in the interim. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz called the hearing the most extraordinary one she had witnessed in three years. Commissioner Pike said he was “prepared to vote for designation today,” and Commissioner Moore agreed. The hearing was recessed until June 6.

LPC: Public School 64, 605 East 9th Street (LP-2189) (May 16, 2006).

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