EAST VILLAGE — The conversion of a former school into a six-story dormitory for Cooper Union and the Joffrey Ballet has been put on hold by the Department of Buildings.
The DOB issued a partial stop work order at the former P.S. 64 building on East Ninth Street near Avenue B Tuesday, records show. The department found that the developer was not complying with zoning regulations, a spokesman said.
The order came about a month after the DOB issued a partial work permit that allowed the developer, Gregg Singer of 9th & 10th Street LLC, to convert the building into dorms and add a mezzanine, records show.
The department approved the project, named University House, after it reviewed plans and applications indicating that the developer would comply with zoning regulations and the city’s rules regarding dormitories, the spokesman said.
“[A] subsequent audit performed by DOB found project non-compliance with provisions of those zoning and rules based upon review of tenants’ leases,” the spokesman said in an email. “Accordingly, a stop work [order] was issued for the project.”
The spokesman did not elaborate on the nature of the non-compliance and referred DNAinfo to the developer for more information about DOB’s objections to the project. The developer declined to comment.
University House, which is scheduled to open in the 2016-17 school year, would provide accommodations for 535 students from participating colleges and universities in the city, according to its website. So far, Cooper Union and the Joffrey Ballet have signed agreements to use the space, records show.
Amenities include private music practice rooms, a yoga studio, bicycle storage and a laundry room that sends notifications to residents via text and email, according to the project's website.
Cooper Union has leased 196 beds on the second and third floors of the six-story building, according to the University House website, while the Joffrey Ballet has leased 132 bed on the ground and first floors.
Justin Harmon, vice-president of communications for Cooper Union, said the college has asked its lawyers to determine whether or how DOB’s order will affect its agreement with Singer.
The Joffrey Ballet did not immediately return requests for comment.
The former school building has sat empty since 2001, when Singer kicked out the CHARAS/El Bohio Cultural and Community Center. The building had been a haven for activists and artists for more than 30 years, according to reports.
Singer purchased the building from the city in 1999, records show.
Community groups and elected officials have strongly opposed the dormitory, saying the building should be preserved as a community space instead.
Councilmember Rosie Mendez also wrote three letters to DOB about the issue and shared her concerns that agreements between the developer and the two schools did not meet DOB’s criteria for a lease with an educational institution.
Mendez, who sent the first letter in April 2013, said she felt vindicated after the DOB told her it issued the stop work order Monday evening.
“It’s very frustrating that it’s taken so long,” she said, “but I’m happy that it’s finally settled.”