Village Preservation has partnered with Urban Archive to explore the history of the former P.S. 64/Charas-El Bohio Cultural Center in their Story of a Building campaign. The former P.S. 64 is located at 605 East 9th Street and opened in 1905. It was designed by architect C.B.J. Snyder and served as an innovative model in public school design. Unlike many Snyder schools, this building’s design was not repeated for any other school location. Click here to read more about how this innovative building made an impact on this crowded immigrant neighborhood.
In 1977, at the height of the city’s fiscal crisis, when waves of drugs, crime, arson, and abandonment swept through the eastern stretches of the East Village, this building was taken over by several community groups and turned into the CHARAS-El Bohio Community Center. CHARAS was an acronym for the first name of the organization’s five Puerto Rican founders: Chino, Humberto, Angelo, Roy, Anthony, and Sal. It served as a vital and groundbreaking community and cultural center from the late 1970’s through 2001.
In 1998, then-Mayor Giuliani sold the building to a developer, but with the limitation that it could only be used as a “community facility.” CHARAS was evicted in 2001 and over the past 20 years the developer has consistently sought to tear the building down and to turn the building into a revolving door “dorm for hire.”
As part of an all too common story, the owners of the property attempted to subvert the landmarking process by preemptively removing significant architectural details from the building. Fortunately, the LPC at that time saw through this charade and unanimously designated the property an exterior landmark in 2005.
In October 2017 at a Lower East Side town hall, while Mayor Bill De Blasio was running for re-election, he announced the city’s “interest” in re-acquiring the building, but has thus far taken no action to do so. The building remains open to the elements and in a dangerous state of deterioration, while the owner is engaged in several legal battles with the city and lenders. Village Preservation and a broad coalition of community groups continue to battle for the restoration of the building and it’s return to a community use.