Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunset Park's 68th Precinct Station House - Castle in Brooklyn

Looking at the red brick 68th Street Station House from across the street
68th Precinct Station House
The old castle on the corner of 4th Avenue and 43rd Street was designed by architect Emile M. Gruwe in the Romanesque Revival style. Many of Brooklyn's police precincts built in the late 1800s were built in the same style; however, the 68th Precinct is one of the few that survives today. A similar station house designed by Gruwe is still in use in East New York. Other known works by Gruwe include the Belvedere and Florence apartment hotels. Built in 1886, the structure housed Brooklyn's 68th Police Precinct until 1970 when the city consolidated the the precinct with another Brooklyn precinct to create a new and expanded precinct.[1]

Main entrance arched with large Romanesque style arch
68th Precinct Entrance - Romanesque Revival Style Arch
The abandoned and collapsing 68th Precinct Station House has seen better days. The castle was auctioned off in 1974 for $68,000 to Genaro James Santos who planned on turning it into a medical office building.[2] However, Santos's Vision was never realized and the building was eventually reclaimed by the city for unpaid property taxes. Then, the structure sat empty, eventually suffering a fire in 1980.[1] In spite of the fire, the building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1983, affording it protection from demolition or exterior alterations, and auctioned off to the Sunset Park Music Group for $15,000. The Sunset Park Music Group had aspirations of utilizing the building for educational purposes.[3] However the group struggled to finance their mission and sold the building to the Brooklyn Chinese American Association (BCAA) in 1999 for approximately $200,000. Still the current owners, the BCAA have suffered a similar plight, struggling to raise the funds necessary to renovate the building for use as a center for youth classes. Moreover, the owners are grappling with mounting fines for hazardous site conditions, expired construction permits and allowing the building to be "demolished by neglect".[4]

68th Precinct Station House
Station House & Connection to Stable
Behind 68th Precinct Station House
68th Precinct Arch
Today the building serves as a squatter residence and home to feral cats. I spoke to one local resident who loves the building but sees it as an eye sore that gives outsiders the impression that his part of Sunset Park is a bad neighborhood. He is critical of the owners, as well as the city for allowing the building to continue to decay, questioning why the city hadn't taken the building through litigation and restored it.

Photos of the interior can be found on Nathan Kensinger's Blog.

References:
  1. Landmarks Preservation Report
  2. Fallon, Beth "Master of His Castle Wins on Second Try" Daily News. 30 January, 1974.
  3. Gray, Christopher "Streetscapes: The18th Precinct Station House" New York Times. Online. 26 July, 1987.
  4. Maisel, Todd & Blau, Reuven Daily News. Online. 29 August, 2012.

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