Squatters turned an abandoned schoolhouse into a thriving arts center. Then it was sold to a developer, who evicted the tenants.
... Nearly two decades later, the building remains vacant.
Gregg Singer in his office in the building that was once P.S. 64, once Charas, and now, except for him, vacant.Haruka Sakaguchi for The New York Times
One day in the summer of 1998, bidders had gathered in the auditorium of 1 Police Plaza for a public auction of city property. The Giuliani administration in those years had taken to selling off underused land for profit. But a few of the lots, including some community gardens and a cultural center, were not only used, but loved. So when the auctioneer called out “Parcel 41,” announcing the sale of a 130,000-square-foot building in the East Village, the former Public School 64, mayhem erupted.
“Within seconds, people are screaming and jumping on their seats,” recalled Gregg Singer, who at the time was a brash, young real estate developer eager to bid on Parcel 41. “And you look down and there’s all these crickets — thousands of them, all over the place.”
“One guy said: ‘You know something? I ain’t going to bid on this building,’” Mr. Garcia, 71, recalled recently. “‘Because you see all these young people yelling here and outside? They’re going to be around for a long time.’”
Today, Parcel 41 sits vacant, an exaggerated emptiness haunting the better part of the block between Avenues B and C with its darkened windows, many shattered and boarded with plywood. Both sides want to see it occupied. To Charas loyalists, it is an unforgivable waste of space that could be used by children and older people in the community.
Mr. Singer, now 56, believes it would have been occupied long ago, were it not for the interference of bad actors.
“Where’s intelligence?” he asked. “Where’s just basic education that you know this building is better occupied than not?”