Anger and Debate in Harlem Over What to Do With a Long-Vacant School

August 3, 2010  |  

(NYT) — When Public School 186 opened on West 145th Street in 1903, it was a five-story building with a red brick facade, large windows and an open courtyard. It served the neighborhood for the next 72 years.

These days, trees sprout through the roof and the windows of the abandoned school. Three large locks prevent entrance to a courtyard filled with garbage. For nearly 25 years the building has fueled anger because it remains unused, and proposed plans for its development have divided West Harlem.

“The split came from this understanding: you can’t have it both,” said Christa Giesecke, an architect who serves on Community Board 9. “You can have it developed, or you can have it saved. But you can’t have it both.”

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