[Photo via Lehman College]
On November 8, the city ordered an emergency demolition order for P.S. 31 in the Bronx, citing the extensive water damage that the building has incurred since it was vacated in 1997, the vertical crack that extends the full height of the building and into the basement, the 15-year-old timber that is shoring up the south part of the structure, and the fact that pieces of the facade habitually fall into the street. “It is truly a public hazard,” said assistant commissioner of the Buildings Department Tim Lynch.
But, before they can tear down the landmarked building, city officials had to present their case to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the catch being that that’s all they had to do, as the LPC’s role in this matter is only advisory. So, even though the Commission ended up telling the Department of Housing Preservation & Development that they would really rather the city not demolish an individual landmark that they have neglected and left to rot for the better part of two decades, that is exactly what’s going to end up happening.
“It has been a disgraceful stewardship by the Department of Education,” said commissioner Elizabeth Ryan. Commissioners also grilled Lynch and co. about why a proposed redevelopment plan from Bronx company SoBRO had not been allowed to proceed. SoBRO’s Phillip Morrow testified to the commission that he had gotten independent reports from three different engineers, all of whom had disagreed with the city’s findings and said that the building could be salvaged. Lynch demurred, saying that the redevelopment would take too long, while the building remained a significant public safety hazard.
Members of the Mott Haven community were also hurt and angered by the loss of one of their iconic buildings. One resident said that, along with Yankee Stadium, the “Castle on the Concourse,” as it is known, is the Bronx skyline. “The destruction of this building would really not be allowed anywhere else in the city,” said another resident. · Department of Buildings Told by Landmarks Preservation Commission Efforts Must be MAde to Save PS 31 [Welcome2theBronx] · P.S. 31 will face the wrecking ball [NYDN] · P.S. 31 coverage [Curbed]