Sunset Park

Sunset Parker urges city to save old police precinct

June 22, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The old 68th Precinct station house on Fourth Avenue would be torn down to make way for a school under a plan being considered by the New York City School Construction Authority. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
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A 130-year-old landmark building in Sunset Park that formerly housed a police precinct is being eyed as a site for an elementary school, but a neighborhood civic group is urging the de Blasio administration to save the structure and construct a school at an alternative location in the community.

The Romanesque Revival-style building at 4302 Fourth Ave., which used to serve as the 68th Precinct station house, was officially declared a city landmark 30 years ago. It has been vacant for several years.

The city is considering building a 300-seat elementary school at the site, a move that, given the structure’s landmark status, would require permission from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

Tony Giordano, a leader of Sunset Park Restoration and the founder of the 7,900-member Facebook group Sunset Parker, said neighborhood residents don’t want to see the old station house demolished, even for the noble cause of building a much-needed school for the community.

The New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), Community Board 7 and the Community Education Council of School District 15 recently held a joint public hearing on the issue.

Giordano submitted testimony in which he urged the SCA to spare the iconic, castle-like station house when constructing the new school. He also suggested that the SCA consider other sites for the school and vowed to have his group assist the agency with a search.

“If you agree in writing to preserve the building’s landmark status, we will work with you to design around the architectural treasures and provide the 300 sorely needed seats. We will put our entire membership at your disposal to succeed in that search,” Giordano testified.

“There are locations in our community at this moment that are available.  They may require investment, they may require creativity, but they exist,” Giordano said.

He listed a building on the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and 39th Street as a possible site and suggested that the SCA also look into the possibility of obtaining air rights over the railroad tracks on 38th Street next to the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot.

“But the greatest chance for school siting is west of Third Avenue. From 1960 to today, the city does not want to site schools below Third Avenue,” Giordano said, noting that the avenue, which runs beneath the Gowanus Expressway, contains several lanes of traffic.

“But below Third Avenue is the Promised Land.  First, land is available, but not for long. Second, there are already hundreds of school children living below Third Avenue that everyday make the ‘feared’ Third Avenue crossing. Why not provide seats for them closer to home?” Giordano suggested.

As Brooklyn Eagle real estate columnist Lore Croghan reported in January, the landmark building, designed by architect Emile Gruwe, was constructed in 1886. It is one of only a few 19th-century Brooklyn police stations still standing.

The 68th Precinct is now located at 333 65th St. in Bay Ridge.

The building has changed hands several times over the years, according to New York City Department of Finance (DOF) records.

At one time, it was owned by the Sunset Park Music School. The Brooklyn Chinese American Association owned it for a time and then sold it to an entity known as SunPark LLC, DOF records show. In 2015, SunPark LLC sold it to another entity, Brooklyn Police Castle Inc.

Tamar Smith, manager of external affairs for the SCA, told that the agency was still gathering information and that it was too soon to say what will happen to the building. “A historic building has a lot of limitations,” quoted her as saying at the public hearing.

Giordano, meanwhile, is looking back at the building’s history with fondness.

I have a long history with the building — lovingly referred to as the ‘Castle.’ When the police moved out in 1970, I claimed the building on behalf of the Street People Coalition. Over a two-month period we did a cosmetic renovation to prepare it for use in a community health fair,” he recalled.


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