Description & Building Alterations
350 East 10th Street is former Public School 64. Built between 1904-1905, it was designed by the Board of Education’s chief architect Charles B.J. Snyder and is a mid-block H-plan building. PS 64 is a rare Snyder school in that it uses the French Renaissance Revival style and the building’s design was not repeated for any other school location, as was often the case with school designs. A local New York City Landmark, the five-story building is described in its designation report as featuring “keyed surrounds, slate-covered mansard roof, terra-cotta moldings and keystones, contrasting brick and stone materials, and pediments filled with fruit and foliage [that] resulted in a visually prominent school building. This distinguished structure and its distinctive plan and siting in the middle of a crowded neighborhood of tenement buildings helped create a strong statement about the importance of education and the importance of the building itself in the crowded immigrant neighborhood. P.S. 64 was designed while Snyder was at his creative and inventive peak, and is an unusually intact example of a school building from this early period.” Edgar Yipsel “Yip” Harburg, who wrote The Wizard of Oz lyrics, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the director of All About Eve and The Barefoot Contessa, and Sam Levene, who played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls on Broadway, all graduated from this school.
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.
CHARAS provided after-school and physical fitness programs for neighborhood children; hosted performances by such groups as Grupo Ache Dance Company, Latin Dance and Ballet Workshop, New Music Series, Visual Arts/ Media Programs, and Teatro Charas; housed an art gallery, La Galeria en El Bohío, and a theater, Teatro La Terraza; provided studio space for such artists as Maria Dominguez; and ran a film series out of what had been the school’s gymnasium.
While not exclusively geared towards Puerto Rican culture or residents, the space was particularly appreciated by Puerto Rican and other Latinx artists who felt overlooked by mainstream galleries and performance spaces or wanted a venue that specifically promoted Puerto Rican or Latinx culture. CHARAS provided an early launching pad for artists as diverse as John Leguizamo, John Sayles, Luis Guzman, Todd Haynes, and Spike Lee.
In 1998, Mayor Giuliani sold the building to a developer and CHARAS was finally evicted in 2001. The building has remained empty since the group was forced out and has been stripped of ornament and allowed to rot, deteriorate, and remain open to the elements by the developer owner. CHARAS co-founder Chino Garcia and local politicians including former City Councilmembers Margarita Lopez and Rosie Mendez have championed the return of the building to community use. 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.
Block : 392 / Lot : 010 / Building Date : 1904-1905 / Original Owner : NY Department of Education / Original Use : Institutional / Original Architect : C.B.J. Snyder