BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A group of Bard College architecture students met with Carlos “Chino” Garcia, the legendary leader of CHARAS, over pizza at Two Boots East Village on Fri., Feb. 24. The discussion topic: “Reimagining the Future of El Bohio.”
Through the end of 2001, the former old P.S. 64 on E. Ninth Street was occupied by the CHARAS / El Bohio Community and Cultural Center. CHARAS was a group of former gang members, including Garcia, who rehabbed the abandoned school and turned it into a thriving community hub, which they dubbed El Bohio (“the hut” in Taino, an extinct Caribbean language). However, the city auctioned the building in 1998, when it was bought by developer Gregg Singer.
Now the old school is set to be sold again — though this time at a private auction — but the date was recently postponed. Meanwhile, a group of activists have been meeting to brainstorm on how to restore the building as a community center. Yet, there has been friction with other veteran activists on exactly who should be leading the effort and concern over “too many cooks stirring the pot.”
Frank Morales, a member of the Guardians of Loisaida, recently pitched an idea from a group of “Loisaida residents” for a combination vocational school / community center, but subsequently withdrew the scheme, citing personal reasons. Kenny Toglia, another Guardians leader, says his main goal right now is just stopping the building’s sale. He has posted a petition on change.org to halt the private auction, which has garnered 345 signatures toward a goal of 500. He also said that, although Morales has stepped back from the Guardians, the vocational school plan is still alive at www.savecharas.org.
Everyone, however, is supporting a rally to be held on Wed., March 15, from 11 a.m. to noon, at City Hall’s south plaza, across from the Brooklyn Bridge. Participants will include members of SOCCC-64 (Save Our Community Center / CHARAS Old P.S. 64), local politicians, community organizations, artists, residents and supporters, who will demand that “the city right the wrongs of the past and return our community center.”
For more details on the Bard students’ talk with Garcia, see the article on the college’s Web site.