By Sabina Mollot
Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.
However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”
In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.
Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.
The property’s history stretches back much further though to 1863 when it was completed. The Italianate design structure was designed by NYPD architect Nathaniel Bush, according to Daytonian in Manhattan, a blog on the borough’s history.
Located in what was then called the Gashouse District, the precinct’s early years were rife with rampant crime. That crime was managed most infamously after the Civil War by a police officer named Alexander Williams. Williams, who later became the captain, was better known as “Clubber,” based on the fact that he would beat the gang members who roamed the streets into submission with his baton.
The blog also noted that not long after it was built, the precinct doubled as headquarters for a battalion of the 7th New York Regiment. But by 1914, the building had fallen into a state of disrepair and the precinct’s jail was condemned for being out of date. In 1952, the precinct, then renumbered as the 13th, was moved to East 21st Street.
As for Suzuki, the developer is also no stranger to police himself, having been jailed in 2010 for failing to maintain a building he owned in the Bronx. He also reportedly failed to maintain other low-income buildings he owned, earning himself a reputation as a slumlord.
Mission Capital’s Kyle Kaminski, who is listed in the auction notice as a contact, did not respond to a request for comment. A Suzuki company spokesperson also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Commenting on the current state of the former precinct, a Manhattan historian and author of a book on the Gramercy neighborhood, Alfred Pommer, said he wasn’t surprised that it didn’t have landmark protection.
“I could show you a lot of buildings that should be landmarked that are not,” said Pommer, author of Exploring Gramercy Park and Union Square. However, he explained, despite the history of the place, it might have been overlooked due to its design. “This was a relatively mundane, moderate design,” he said. “It was a nicely styled Italianate building, but it doesn’t stand out.”
That said, Pommer said he thought the history should have been taken into consideration prior to the green light to demolish.
“The fact that Clubber Williams was there for a number of years before he was transferred and that the army regiment and police controlled the (Civil War-time) draft riots, although they weren’t able to suppress it,” he said. He added, “It would have been nice if it was landmarked.”