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The city is attempting to find a tenant willing to occupy Erasmus Hall Academy, a decaying landmark with aging rooms filled with mismatched furniture and long−ago memories.
“We are working with the Department of Education (DOE) to help find them a tenant to stop the building from deteriorating,” said Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The DOE, which owns the property, no longer uses it as a school, because of its aged wooden frame. The agency has said that it can’t afford to restore a building that can’t be used for educational purposes. At press time, DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg didn’t return a call for comment. The agency’s School Construction Authority has said that rehabilitating the academy to the stringent requirements of a landmark could cost $2 million.
Constructed in 1787, the building is the borough’s oldest educational structure. Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and John Jay are associated with the school’s founding.
Landmarks has performed a number of recent site visits and determined the building’s structure is sound. If a building is in bad enough shape, Landmarks has the authority to compel a property owner to make the necessary repairs.
The building stands in the courtyard of Erasmus Hall High School, at the intersection of Church and Flatbush Avenues. Graduates of the high school have embarked on a campaign to save the academy. “There is such a thing as demolition by neglect. You allow a building to fall apart, and then they have to take it down,” academy advocate Wilhelmena Kelly recently told Community Board 14’s Education, Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee.
De Bourbon said the agencies are cognizant of the structure’s historical import. “It’s one of the most important buildings in the City of New York,” she said.
But with each day of foul weather, the academy slips further into disrepair. “It’s in a dreadful state,” said Florence Valentino, co−chair of the CB 14 committee. “It’s deteriorated to the point where the roof will collapse,” she told the full board last week.
“Unfortunately, the School Construction Authority has no money or interest to preserve this structure,” she continued. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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