Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping Our Castle Keep

One of our perennial Sunset Park landmarks was covered recently by the Lost City Blog. It appears that it is in danger of extinction due to neglect. The building at one time used to house the original 68th precinct house. Reminiscent of a medieval castle one would find in southern Europe complete with what looks like a castle keep. Some people have complained that it looks like an eyesore. I have always liked the fact that it sticks out like an archaic sore thumb compared to the surrounding buildings. According to the blog the building which has been designated a Historic Landmark by the city has been bought by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association. One wonders what they intend to do with it. Just recently they also took over the old VFW Post that stood on the corner of 39th street and 8th Avenue. Rather than use that building for any useful purpose they have turned to using the front yard as a parking garage for their buses. Let us hope that they don't do the same with the old precinct house and leave it to be used as a warehouse. The building should be used for some community purpose such as a museum or community center. Perhaps our councilwoman can get off her butt and see if we can get some funding to do just that. In any case, the blog offers a brief history of the building.

Of note also is comments by a frequent contributor to this blog Escape From Sunset Park adding a bit more to the history;

  • The day the police moved out, my teenage friends and I busted the lock and put our own lock on the door. We recognized the value of the building and wanted to show the community how important it was to preserve it.

    Over the course of a few weeks, we fixed it up well-enough to stage a three day health fair. We attracted 1,776 people to the event. (we "rented" the building to the movie company shooting "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" to raise money to make the place useable for the health fair. Also, the telephone company "switchboard" for the area, now mounted outdoors on a pole was inside the building on a wall - it provided us with free phone service so we could call doctors from a medical directory that we "found" and have them volunteer to fill in blocks of time for the health fair. Our biggest moment came the night before the fair, when we had to lock the police out because they were harrassing us - in "our" building...lol)

    After the health fair we held a public meeting to turn the building over to any group that wanted to use it - no one stepped forward.

    A year or so later an anti-drug program - (3rd avenue based, primarily heroin, run by a man named Santana - it was a Christ based program) took over the building and they are the ones that painted over the brick & began putting white paint in the mortar lines before they abandoned the building.

    The biggest mistake of the building was when the school of music had it listed as a nyc landmark - it made any future repairs unaffordable due to the level of "historic preservation" that had to be met.

    For awhile it was in the hands of a group that wanted to put a for profit health spa in the building.

    I absolutely love the building and it is a part of my past. There is an old horse stable on the south side of the building (Neighborhood Youth Corps used it for a summer or two - I smashed a chair against a wall in a dispute at one time and almost got my butt kicked by a couple of dozen guys) and a gang - I forget their name - bald headed, darkskinned guys occupied it for awhile - I stepped into their "lair" once with members of the Brooklyn Saints to squash an imminent gang fight - once again I was lucky to escape without a beating...lol. During this episode the police, now in the new 72nd precinct building hung the colors (a gang member's leather jacket on the precinct flagpole to show their contempt for the gang)..

    To the west of the building is the morgue that was part of the police operation at the time of its construction.
    I hope that the Chinese American group can save the building.
Check out the post. It makes for interesting reading and we recommend the blog as well.

Earlier this morning as I was passing by I snapped these shots of the building in question.

Let's hope that some of us in the community can band together and save this landmark. Besides giving the neighborhood character it is a bit of our history from a bygone era when New York City and Sunset Park were a different place.

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