Landmarks designates P.S. 64

Owner’s opposition and valid permit to strip exterior fails to stop designation. On June 20, 2006, Landmarks voted unanimously to designate former Public School 64 at 605 East 9th Street in the Lower East Side, despite the fact that its current owner, Gregg Singer, remained opposed to the designation and holds a valid Buildings permit to remove exterior details. 2 CityLand 152 (Nov. 15, 2005); 3 CityLand 80 (June 15, 2006).

Reading a lengthy, emotionally- charged statement urging designation, Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz claimed the vote “will be the most significant decision of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in recent years.” Gratz traced the school’s history, explaining first that Elizabeth Irwin, founder of the Little Red Schoolhouse, taught at P.S. 64 before it closed in the late 1960s, but she focused her testimony on the period within the late 1960s and 1970s when many building owners and the City “turned their backs” on the Lower East Side and abandoned buildings. During that time the Adopt-a-Building program, which helped local residents take over deteriorating buildings, squatted in P.S. 64, making it “a symbol for the grass roots self-help movement” that spread through the Lower East Side, Gratz said. She added that “no amount of stripping away of detailing . . . can ever diminish its importance.”

Commissioner Pablo E. Vengoechea added that during the abandonment, neglect and arson of the 70s, schools became community centers for Lower East Side residents. By taking over these abandoned buildings, Vengoechea commented that residents fueled the resurgence of the Lower East Side and its increasing property values, which ironically led to Singer’s hope to redevelop the school.

Following extensive comments by commissioners on the architectural significance of C.B.J. Snyder’s design for the Lower East Side school, Landmarks voted to designate.

LPC: P.S. 64, 605 East 9th Street (LP- 2189) (June 20, 2006).

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