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March auction date set for old P.S. 64, long-vacant East Village landmark

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A judge has set Wed., March 22, as the date for the forced auction of the East Village’s old P.S. 64, the former home of CHARAS/El Bohio.

The event reportedly will be held at the Double Tree by Hilton New York Fifth Avenue Hotel, at 25 W. 51st St.

The Real Deal was the first to report the setting of the auction date.

In December, State Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane ruled that the property can be foreclosed on and must be sold within 100 days.

Carlos “Chino” Garcia, the executive director of CHARAS, spoke at a rally outside the old P.S. 64 in November 2021. (Photo by The Village Sun)

The vacant, nearly century-old property, at 605 E. Ninth St., spans 152,000 square feet, from Ninth Street to 10th Street, just east of Avenue B. The classic “H”-style (when seen from above) school building, sporting large windows, was designed by legendary schools architect Charles B.J. Snyder.

Singer purchased the old school at an auction of city-owned properties at One Police Plaza in 1998 for $3.2 million. He soon evicted CHARAS — a Puerto Rican-led cultural and community center that had been there for two decades — in December 2001.

Singer, though, has been unable to redevelop the property in the nearly quarter century since buying it, with his various plans to try to turn it into a student dorm all coming to naught. His early schemes shockingly called for demolishing the Beaux Arts-style building and replacing it with a high-rise tower.

Following the building’s landmarking under former Mayor Bloomberg, he initially spitefully threatened to turn it into a facility for domestic-abuse victims, substance abusers and parolees. More recently, he has sought to renovate the existing property into a dorm. He charges the city with repeatedly blocking his efforts, charging “tortious” interference.

Meanwhile, Justice Crane has agreed with Madison Capital Capital, Singer’s lender, that it is owned nearly $90 million “for principal, interest and other charges,” according to The Real Deal. Singer took out a $44 million loan from Madison on the building in 2016, but failed to make repayment on it by the deadline. Madison has been trying to foreclose on the property since 2018.

In October, Singer listed the property for sale or lease on Corcoran. The listing states the place would be ideal as a rental or co-op, and that it “can be transformed into a variety of modern, amenity-rich opportunities, including: Academic Dormitories, Education Center College, Satellite Campus, Medical Center, Nursing Home, Assisted Living.”

The property carries a deed restriction for “community use” that prohibits residential use. However, one local activist close to the story said that, if the deed could be modified, perhaps affordable housing could be a good option for the site — only not with a lot of market-rate housing also included, as was typically done in development projects under former Mayor de Blasio, a model that has received heavy criticism and fallen out of favor.

Singer, for his part, continues to fight the city in court for allegedly blocking his redevelopment schemes. A Singer spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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