After a long battle with thousands of people voicing their pleas to save PS 31 aka The Castle On The Concourse, the city will be demolishing this beautiful landmark and treasured building filled with so much history.
It is a battle that we at Welcome2TheBronx, along with other concerned residents, took to New York City’s Landmarks Commission in December 2013, where the agency blasted the city at allowing the building to decay to such a state.
This is a story we all know too well in The Bronx: The city doesn’t care about us unless it’s about making money.
Had this property been located in Manhattan or Brooklyn, this would never have been allowed to happen but because it is located in the poorest congressional district in the country and the poorest borough in the city, it’s ok to treat our history like garbage — at least that’s the message being sent here.
We speculated that the real reason behind the city’s insistence that the building needed to be demolished was because the area had been rezoned in 2009 (minus the school and several other buildings) in the Lower Concourse Rezoning Area.
Along with this rezoning came the Special Harlem River Waterfront District (SHRWD) which has raised the stakes in the neighborhood and in the district with properties selling at record prices, not to mention the grandiose plans being floated for the SHRWD.
Now the city plans to rezone the lot to allow for denser construction on the site for affordable housing (which of course we already know isn’t affordable to those who live in the community because of how the area median income is set up and doesn’t truly represent the neighborhood).
In an official statement from the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, they wrote to us:
“The South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation(SoBRO) submitted a proposal to HPD to save the building . It was financially feasible to do so and we had a plan to protect the remaining structure while the planning was underway.
THE COST OF THE PRESERVATION PLAN WAS LESS THAN THE COST OF DEMOLITION. Despite this the city has selected to go ahead with the demolition. At the time the city said it was an emergency situation and the demolition was to protect the public— but that was more than a year ago and the building is still standing.
We feel it’s demolition is another Bronx tragedy.”
Every single elected official who stood by and did nothing is complicit in this atrocious act that will befall such a treasured in the community.
“In a matter of weeks the city will finally demolish a once-stately Bronx school known as the “Castle on the Concourse,” which was built in 1899, landmarked in 1986 and later left to rot under the city’s stewardship. In its place, officials will seek to upzone the property and pave the way for a large affordable-housing complex.
With former P.S. 31’s end firmly in sight, stakeholders are focusing on what will take the school’s place. Although the property is landmarked, the city in this case is not bound by restrictions that prevent its demolition.
“[PS 31’s] imminent demise is a moment of great sadness for so many neighborhood residents, myself included,” wrote Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. in a March 31 letter addressed to the head of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “We owe it to these residents to make the most of this opportunity.”
The shell of the former P.S. 31, along Grand Concourse at East 144th Street, has been the source of acerbic criticism for years. Even the city’s own Landmarks Preservation Commission expressed disgust at the property’s deterioration into a public health hazard since it was shuttered in 1997.
“I find it completely despicable,” Landmarks Commissioner Michael Devonshire said in a New York Times report last year.