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Final plea to restore old P.S. 64 as community center as building heads to private auction

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Activists and elected officials rallied outside City Hall on Wed., March 15, calling for the long-vacant old P.S. 64 to be returned to its former use as a community and cultural center.

Looming over the event was the upcoming auction of the historic building on Wed., March 22. The old school, at 605 E. Ninth St., was the home of CHARAS El Bohio — a Puerto Rican-led community-empowerment group — until developer Gregg Singer evicted them at the end of 2001. He had bought the place three years earlier when the Giuliani administration put it on the auction block, along with scores of other city-owned properties. Now, fast-forward to 2023, with Singer having repeatedly failed to redevelop the property, a judge has finally forced him to sell the building at auction in order to repay his debt to his financial lender, Madison Capital Realty.

State Committeeman Anthony Feliciano was the rally’s emcee. (Photo by David Sanders)
Juan Rivero of Village Preservation called CHARAS El Bohio the heart of the community. District Leader Aura Olavarria, right, said the neighborhood is suffering without the former community center. (Photo by David Sanders)

Speaking at the rally, Chino Garcia, the executive director of CHARAS and the “Godfather of the Lower East Side,” said, “It’s important to know that this building has at least 130,000 square feet that can be used for community use. And that’s what’s important. What’s important is that we’ve got creative people that want to go back to work in there in order to service our community. So, fight for the building for as much as you can, so that people could enjoy themselves in it, learn and participate in programs in that facility again. So please put up a fight for that building.”

State Committeemember Anthony Feliciano said, “At every moment, our heart’s been broken by every mayor… . They’ve made commitments and promises. In October 2017, at a forum, Mayor de Blasio said he would work with us, and that didn’t happen. This mayor needs to change that.”

Susan Howard of SOCCC 64 (Save our Community Center / CHARAS Old P.S. 64) was among the speakers calling for the building’s return to community use. (Photo by David Sanders)
Activist Francisco E. Gonzalez, a candidate for Democratic district leader, has been active in the fight to regain the old school building. (Photo by David Sanders)

(Subsequent to de Blasio’s pledge — made when he was running for reelection — that the city would try to reacquire the old P.S. 64, in the summer of 2018 he told this reporter at a reporter’s roundtable that it was Singer’s fault that a deal had not yet been worked out. In short, he accused the developer of being “exceedingly uncooperative” about trying to negotiate the sale of the building back to the city. But Singer’s spokesperson countered that it was, in fact, the Mayor’s Office that had broken off the communication.)

“I’m very upset and angry that we have been without this building for this long. I think it’s completely unacceptable,” said Aura Olavarria, a Democratic district leader representing the East Village. “We’ve been fighting for this and we will not stop fighting, Mayor Adams. Our community needs resources… . We need this for our community. We need this for our children. We need this for our future. We are suffering. And without it, I don’t know if we will survive. And we will not give up.”

News radio reporter Paul DeRienzo, formerly of WBAI now of The Torch, got comments from Comptroller Brad Lander at the rally. (Photo by David Sanders)
There were around 40 people at the rally. (Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

Juan Rivero of Village Preservation said, “A place that effectively was the heart of the neighborhood, a wellspring of community… . And this heart was unceremoniously ripped from the chest of the community and cast lifeless aside for two decades. And the upcoming auction is going to only perpetuate this heartlessness. I say that it is high time for some cardiac intervention. I call on you, Mayor Adams, to put on your scrubs and make good on the broken promise of the city to bring us back our community center. And until that has happened, we will continue fighting to regain CHARAS. Even if we have to do it anaerobically, we will continue fighting.”

Meanwhile, separately, Kenny Toglia of the Guardians of Loisaida, has been organizing an effort to try to block Wednesday’s auction. The auction is set to happen at the DoubleTree by Hilton New York Midtown Fifth Avenue hotel, at 25 W. 51st St. A request for a stay to delay the sale was reportedly unsuccessful. As opposed to the 1998 auction, which was open to the public, this one is private.

(Photo by Paul DeRienzo)

“We must shut down the Midtown Hilton Hotel,” Toglia declared in a message to supporters. “Gather for a drum circle at 9:30 a.m. We are going to exorcise the evil spirit of Rudy Giuliani and call for a permanent boycott of the Midtown Hilton Hotels & Resorts for selling out our community. Bring drums, musical instruments, costumes, sidewalk chalk, glitter, posters, banners, paint, glue, confetti, etc.”

In 1998, CHARAS activists tried to disrupt the building’s auction by using only one thing — live crickets, which they released onto the floor of 1 Police Plaza. Actually, only a small percentage of the critters were still alive and kicking, though hardly able to hop, since they had been kept in manila envelopes too long before being smuggled in through the metal detectors. Nevertheless, in choreographed chaos, several women leaped up on chairs and started shrieking in mock terror. As a crew of summer interns swept up the insects and the pandemonium began to wane, Armando Perez, CHARAS’s artistic director, repeatedly defied an order to sit back down. He was led out of the place in handcuffs, a smile on his face at the creative spirit of the guerrilla cricket caper.

Todd Edelman, who was the communications officer for the Chico Mendez Mural Garden, on E. 11th Street between Avenues A and B, was among the protesters at the ’98 auction, though not part of the cricket plan, which he noted was hatched by a “very small cell of people.” The garden was ultimately bulldozed for condos by developer Donald Capoccia.

Edelman recalled how Bette Midler, with her New York Restoration Project land trust, along with the Trust for Public Land, in 1999 spent $4.2 million to buy 115 community gardens that Giuliani was trying to sell off. Today, Edelman advocates on transportation issues and sustainable development in Davis, California.

“It’s clearly a victory that CHARAS — as a building, and a memory site, but unfortunately not a functional cultural asset — still exists,” he said.

“At the risk of sounding facetious, New York City is a big and developed place, and there’s still some cool and wealthy people around,” he said. “I’m not clear if there’s another Bette Midler lurking in the wings, offstage or already in the green room of community equity. Hate abhors a vacuum, but love always has the greatest potential to displace it.”


  1. Lincoln Anderson Lincoln Anderson Post author | March 23, 2023

    Clayton, you also got that great shot of the cop with the plastic garbage bag looking at you, like, “what the hell?” as he cleaned up the crickets. I remember seeing about three police officers throwing you out the revolving door of One Police Plaza, it was a bit of a scuffle. You had been sitting in the front row videoing earlier.

  2. clayton patterson clayton patterson March 22, 2023

    Yes, Fran I remember you getting arrested the day of the sale.  I was also arrested that day. There was maybe one other person arrested. Elsa and I were posted at the door when cops busted in to close Charas. 
    Fran you will remember some of the leaders were upset with us for getting arrested.  They felt they could negotiate a settlement.  Looking back over the years it is interesting to see the differences between 2 different  fighting styles.  Cooper Square was more plodding, more diplomatic. More civilized.  We were more street-fighting radicals, the more uncouth, more unlovable.  More in your face.  
    No question, the LES fighting group Cooper Square had major successes.  And so did we.  Both sides saved different parts. 
    Fran, in the future, after we all have passed, it will be understood whose approach was the most successful. 
    I see there is a new documentary on Cooper Square. True, more at a distance, I always admired and supported Frances Goldin.  We just had different approaches, but no question, I respected her and honored her memory.

    Over the years Elsa and I have documented a number of people connected to the old Charas and Cooper Square.  The book Resistence  Elsa and I have many photos and videos from this period.  I created the NY ACKER Awards and Fran as you know there are a number of activists in the list of recipients.  Another form of history.  In the underground part of our archive a number of radical art groups,  A number of court cases I was involved in. Parts of the actions crossed over to Austria, Germany and Japan.  Take a look at the NO!art site. Look up Boris Lurie. LES radical politics that went back to the 1960s. 

    Also search The Shadow Chris Flash; Paul DeRienzo WBAI; Seth Tobocman radical comic book artist ; Fran Luck Political Activist/Feminist and resistance; then, all the poster makers. So many others.

    In respect. Boris Lurie died on January 7th 2008
    after a long illness at the age of 83 in New York.
    We mourn for the loss of
    the co-founder and catalyzer
    of the NO!art movement.
    ►Dietmar Kirves NO!art headquarters East,
    ►Clayton Patterson NO!art headquarters West,
    all NO!art involved artists,
    and all his true friends
    The burial took place on January 9th
    at ►Haifa cemetery.

    Lincoln Anderson: Auction disrupted, but Charas is sold, New York 1998
    Monday’s city auction. Charas’s building, a former … He’s quite angry.” As Charas’s auction approached, commotion broke … lawyers. However, he added, Charas can’t afford costly

    Clayton Patterson: Our Chance, Activities, New York 2004
    Singer is clearly negotiating the DEMOLITION OF CHARAS/PS64. NO work is … to demolish the PS 64/CHARAS. He had plenty and plenty … in the STD plan. Charas has not come up

    Clayton Patterson Gallery: Agathe Snow, April 2009
    Charas / El Bohio, also known as PS 64. Charas, in 1979, was the American Dream for the … attempted to pass off as community usage. The Charas building should be given back to the community

    Clayton Patterson: Keeping it real through the years, through his lens, New York…
    Memorial candles outside the former CHARAS/El Bohio cultural and community center on E. 10th Street. (Photo by Clayton Patterson) COMMENTS: John Penley | 11/25/2022: Clayton

    Clayton Patterson is looking at the Lower East Side, Essay by Alan Moore, New…
    And groups like Charas, Cooper Square, GOLES, ETC La Mama, Joint Planning Council, all of these groups opposed the people in the park. I believe that the Left was totally wrong

    Clayton Patterson 30 year retrospective, New York 2006
    Village buildings, such as Charas Community Center on 9th Street, and most recently, St, Brigid’s, a Roman Catholic Church built on Avenue A, from outright demolition, or

    Clayton Patterson (ed.): Captured, 2005, book information
    Ng, David: Films Charas Oisteanu, Valery: The Provocative Confessions of a Poet/Video-Artist Palazzolo, Francis: More than just raw nerve and cheap metaphors Patterson, Clayton: A

    Resistance, edited by Clayton Patterson, New York, 2007
    CHARAS, the successor organization of RGS, took over a large abandoned school on 10th Street and ran it as the El Bohio cultural center until 2001 when the city under Mayor


    Clayton Patterson et al.: Widerstand/Resistance, New York 2007
    CHARAS, the successor organization of RGS, took over a large abandoned school on 10th Street and ran it as the El Bohio cultural center until 2001 when the city under Mayor

    gallery/documents/2006-09-14_harry smith catalog.pdf
    Village buildings, such as Charas Community Center on 9th Street, and most recently, St, Brigid’s, a Roman Catholic Church built on Avenue A, from outright demolition, or smith catalog.p…

    Clayton Patterson | Rezensionen in englischer Sprache | Autoren
    Auction disrupted, but Charas is sold. The Villager, New York, July 22, New York, 1998. — : The sign that launched 1,000 business news stories. The Villager, Vol. 77, no. 38,
    Clayton Patterson | Reviews and Interviews | Table of contents with authors
    Auction disrupted, but Charas is sold. The Villager, New York, July 22, New York, 1998. — : The sign that launched 1,000 business news stories. The Villager, Vol. 77, no. 38,

    Clayton Patterson | Reviews and Interviews | titles
    Auction disrupted, but Charas is sold by Lincoln Anderson, in: The Villager, July 22, New York 1998. Captured, book review by Anonym, in: am New York, Issue 175, Vol. 3, September


    Clayton Patterson in conversation with Lincoln Anderson by 8Ball radio, New York…
    Media after the acquisition of amNY last month. more TAGGED: AUCTION DISRUPTED, BUT CHARAS IS SOLD, The Villager on July 22, 1998 PETER MISSING: I LOVE CAPITALISM, The Villager,

  3. joyofresistance joyofresistance March 21, 2023

    I was one of the people arrested at the first auction of CHARAS, when the crickets were released. Earlier, when CHARAS was still open and functioning, I organized a “Community Fast” in which local activists and politicians, including then-City Councilperson Margarita Lopez, publicly fasted for up to 7 days to draw attention to the possible eviction of the beloved community center. But I was only one of an untold number of people who put their love and work and energy into getting the building back for the community, including those, who, over the last 20 years, when the building was closed, have kept it from being turned over to private interests for non-community use. How heartbreaking if, after all of that, we were to lose it! Right now (as of March 21, you can see some of that outpouring of love in the recent and ongoing painting of murals on both the 9th and 10th Steet sides of the building (near the corner of Avenue B), that have been inspired by CHARAS, including portraits of founders Chino Garcia and Armando Perez. Drop by and enjoy them (we don’t now how long they will be there). And sign the petition to save CHARAS. Send messages to Mayor Adams and attend/resist the auction if you can! — Fran Luck

  4. Gojira Gojira March 21, 2023

    “The garden was ultimately bulldozed for condos by developer Donald Capoccia.” – Please clarify to your readers that the condos Mr. Capoccia built were not market rate, they were originally restricted to local residents making a not-very-much maximum income, and there was a lottery for them. The original owners were all from the East Village, although a number of them later used their good fortune to sell for much higher prices than they paid for their units. No good deed…(and I know this because at the time I was on CB#3’s Housing Committee, and we had many a discussion about these condos, a number of which were built around the neighborhood.)

    • DuchessofNYC DuchessofNYC March 22, 2023

      Look at what they sell for now. WHY did CB 3 endorse this theft of public land?? These units now sell for $1.4 million or more… So CB 3 endorsed this plan to sell off community gardens to create “affordable” housing — yet the condos were sold with only a 10-year restriction on income for incoming buyers. You allowed private citizens who won the “lottery” (which was gamed) to reap a windfall off the public dime! What kind of oversight is this? CB 3 should be ashamed of what happened here. At the time it was said the “Del Este Village” condos would allow families in the housing projects who were earning too much income but couldn’t afford market-rate units a chance to own homes (i.e. “moderate to middle-income” families). Tell me WHO from the projects ever got a condo?? Look at who owns them now. I heard people were weasling out of the resale restrictions within 3 years. CB 3, you gave away public land for a song!

      • DuchessofNYC DuchessofNYC March 22, 2023

        P.S. The original buyers of these duplex condos with private backyards were NOT only from the East Village. I met many of them. There was a pro-life woman from Jersey City, a lesbian couple from Brooklyn, another woman from Brooklyn… I could go on. Did anyone bother to keep track who was buying these units? They most certainly were NOT all from the community.

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