‘Death and decay’: See inside a decades-empty NYC school

 ‘Death and decay’: See inside a decades-empty NYC school

Usually, only ghosts and the birds get to enjoy the inside of this prime Manhattan real estate. 

The East Village’s PS 64 has been empty for some two decades and the cavernous insides of the H-shaped structure at 605 E. Ninth St. have remained mostly off-limits to the public, documented only by the occasional urban explorer who finds their way into the belly of the behemoth. Last month, photographer Stacie Joy did just that.   

“I’d been hearing for quite some time that there were parties and events being thrown inside, and that there had been a fire or two, and that the building was in serious disrepair,” she told The Post of her adventure through the open gate and into a since-fixed opening in the plywood this March. “I was walking by with a friend, and the door was open. So we went inside to investigate — and document.” 

While Joy doesn’t usually photograph or explore abandoned buildings, she’d long been curious about what the early 20th-century school structure looked like inside after being empty for so long. “I remember it when it was a community cultural space,” said the East Village resident, who moved to NYC as a teenager. 

The building’s owner, Gregg Singer, bought it for $3.15 million in a 1998 auction. Three years later, its only tenant, the Charas/El Bohio Community Center, was evicted. The space, which Singer hopes to expand into dorms, has since sat largely unchanged due to an ongoing legal development battle with the city.

In the years since, it has devolved into more of a nightmare — and a stinky one at that. 

“The smell! It’s pretty unpleasant. A mix of urine and funk,” Joy described to EV Grieve, which first reported her surreptitious exploration. “It’s almost pitch-black as you enter and there are shards of broken glass everywhere. There is evidence of other people bleeding from getting caught in the shattered glass or broken planks and exposed nails.” 

Among other horrors, she came upon a large and “terrifying” pool of water in the basement which, due to the darkness, was “easy to fall into” although she managed to stay dry.

She didn’t see any evidence of people living in the space, but she did feel affected by a sense — and scent — of “death and loss and decay.”

The building, which is more than 115 years old, also gave her a sense of natural and nostalgic beauty through the loveliness of its “windows and light and soaring space.” The wind moved through the floors with her as she explored, and while she didn’t come upon another person she did find many messages, “warnings, love letters, directions” written on the walls and stairs by past visitors.

As hauntingly beautiful as the space is in abandonment, Joy dreams of seeing it one day made into a neighborhood hub again. 

“A space that large and open with such lovely light and windows could be such a boon for kids, artists, seniors, neighborhood events,” she said. “I would love to see it returned to the community. Restored to its former glory.”