A Bronx landmark will soon be razed to make way for affordable housing.
The former P.S. 31, often referred to as the ‘Castle on the Concourse,” will be demolished in a matter of weeks, NYC Housing Preservation and Development confirmed.
“My own life was shaped considerably by my time as a student in this once magnificent structure, and its imminent demise is a moment of great sadness for so many neighborhood residents, myself included,” wrote Borough President Diaz to HPD in response to the news. “We owe it to these residents to make the most of this opportunity.”
The once majestic school building, designed by architect C.B.J. Snyder in 1899, was closed in 1997, and the city-owned property has been deteriorating ever since.
The Department of Buildings recently found the physical conditions of the building constituted a hazard to public safety and issued a declaration that it be razed.
The city is now turning its attention to development, and plans to issue a Request for Proposals for a 100 percent affordable mixed-use housing development in the coming months, after engaging with community stakeholders and local elected officials.
In his letter to HPD, Diaz outlined a number of items he would like to see in that RFP, including requirements for middle-income housing, commercial and community space, the redevelopment of adjacent Garrison Playground, green building standards, and a maximum utilization of the current zoning.
The city plans to upzone the site to match the surrounding area, which was rezoned in 2009, to allow for greater density of residential units.
“The future redevelopment of P.S. 31 will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for the transformation of the lower Concourse,” said Diaz about the plans. “The considerations of short-term housing needs must be balanced with creating the climate and infrastructure for the community’s future growth.”
But while the borough president seems to be looking beyond the present structure, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation believes an opportunity still exists to save the aging building.
In an open letter, SoBRO president Phillip Morrow counters that the demise of the school was not inevitable, saying his organization presented the city with financially feasible plans to restore the building on several occassions.
“Our countless pleas to city officials have been simple,” wrote Morrow. “Before so fervently advocating for P.S.31’s demolition, undertake a transparent and unbiased analysis on the costs of preservation and consider alternative plans and uses for P.S. 31, like the one SoBRO presented, as you have done for other historical gems throughout the city.”
The Bronx community was not given a fighting chance to save the landmark, said Morrow.
“We feel it’s demolition is another Bronx tragedy.”