It’s all up in the air.
A Brooklyn landlord bought the land-marked-but-crumbling Old 68th Precinct Station House on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 43rd Street — and its air rights — for $2.6 million, but its future is far from certain, because the new owner hasn’t announced plans for the site.
For years, previous owners said they wanted to build a community center in the historic site, but the plan never came to fruition. Now locals say they’d like the to see the new owner put the site to use for the community, but they aren’t holding their breath because the lot is zoned for housing.
“While everyone would love to see a civic use, I imagine that is too wishful,” said Tony Giordano, a Sunset Park civic leader. “I believe this would be an address or location that would be impressive enough for a major business’s headquarters, but I would settle for housing.”
The lot was long-destined to be a community center, but a succession of owners failed to reach that goal.
The city first sold the site to a non-profit in 1985, stipulating that the buildings be used for a community facility, according to the deed.
Another group bought the property in 1999, records show, and the property changed hands again in 2012, this time landing in possession of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, which also hoped to build a community center there.
Real Estate firm TerraCRG brokered the most recent sale, claiming it off-loaded the property for $6 million. But sale documents indicate the property went for $2.6 million, city records show.
Last year, the community board asked the city to evaluate the station house for use as a new school in an area with severe overcrowding, according to the board’s head honcho.
“We know the central part of the community in Sunset Park needs it,” said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. “We have a school budgeted, but we don’t have a site.”
The lot is zoned R7A, allowing for an eight-story residential building on site. But new owner Yosef Streicher couldn’t alter the building’s exterior — or tack a few residential floors atop it — without the all-clear from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. He could also transfer the building’s air rights to another development site, but doing so is tricky when land-marked buildings are involved, a city official said.
“In almost 50 years now, in a city with almost 1,000 landmarks, there have only been 10 successful transfers,” said Department of City Planning chairman Carl Weisbrod at a agency conference in February, adding that all 10 transfers occurred in Manhattan. “The procedural requirements … make it very difficult for all but the most deeply pocketed and savvy owners and developers in the expensive parts of town.”
Streicher owns several residential properties in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, city records show. He did not respond to calls placed to home and business addresses listed on property records.
The station house’s exact future is unclear, but nearly any use that spruces up the crumbling icon will be welcome, Giordano said.
“The most important thing is, the property is back on the tax roles and about to rejoin the community in all its original glory,” he said.