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East Village Community Battles Over Fate Of Old School

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A community battle is taking place in the East Village. Plans to transform an old school into a high-tech dormitory is being met with a loud chorus of both opposition and support.

Just one glimpse at the broken windows and dilapidated facade of the old PS 64 building and almost everyone will agree something needs to be done -- but exactly "what" has to be done has been an argument going on for nearly two decades.

Robert Slaughter has lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years. He's part of a long standing community effort to stop property owner and developer Gregg Singer from turning it into a state of the art college dorm facility called University Square.

"We need to do something, like, soon so that we can preserve this historical building," he told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

Slaughter wants the building to be a community cultural center, as it was in the 80's.

Singer's attorney says Adelphi University has agreed to lease parts of the facility while the rest of the building is renovated, following the requirements of the original deed.

"It has to be used for community facility use," Ken Fisher tells CBS2. "And there's no question a dormitory qualifies for that use."

City leaders including the Manhattan Borough president and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez wrote a joint letter to the department of buildings asing them to kill the project -- calling it "a mistake."

Community activist Andrew Berman is worried it will become a dorm for hire.

"A dorm for hire becomes a place where there's sort of this revolving door of people who are staying there for brief periods of time," he said. "That's not what the building is intended for."

Fisher said the notion that the notion that the space will be used for anything other than what they've promised is "just silly."

Many local store owners support the dorm plan, which is estimated to generate $17 million in revenue for the city annually.

Singer's team says they are determined to make his vision for the property a reality, while some community members are holding a meeting on Wednesday night to come up with a plan to keep that reality a dream.


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