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Defend CHARAS Community Center / Free Cooper Union

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The well loved Lower East Side Community & Cultural Center CHARAS El Bohio (P.S. 64) has been shuttered and vacant for more than 11 years now. If a rich and connected developer has is way it will one day soon be turning a profit renting beds to well-to-do ballet students and members of an incoming tuition paying Cooper Union class, despite the fact that the building is by law designated for “community use” only.

Irregardless of the fact that residents of the L.E.S. have been shut out of the building, it’s theaters, performance, and classroom spaces for more than a decade the struggle to preserve and now restore a not for profit space for community and culture has not been forgotten. A 5pm march is planned for today from the boarded-off former school on 9th St. and Ave B to Cooper Union where alumni, current students, and faculty have occupied the Presidents office in support of the school remaining free.

  • In 2006 a memorial for murdered activist, journalist, anarchist Brad Will culminated in the forced yet brief re-occupation of CHARAS by a crowd of hundreds, who left but vowed to again retake the building back permanently.
  • In December 2011 a somewhat raucous lively demonstration resulted in four arrests.
  • In April a planned protest camp-out outside of CHARAS was dispersed by police, following which three cars were burned on the site.

According to The Wall Street Journal The Joffrey Ballet School has agreed to lease two floors of CHARAS from owner Greg Singer. Previously rumors that NYU and or the New School were planning to house students in the former community center were denied by both schools. There is a good chance that this West Village ballet school will do the same when they realize what they may have gotten themselves into.

Contact The Joffrey Ballet School – Phone: 212-254-8520 Fax: 718-228-9612 Email: joffrey@joffreyballetschool.com or in person at 434 Ave of the Americas 5th floor, NY NY 10011. They also have a page on Yelp.

[Updated as of 3pm 5/15/13]

A receptionist from the ballet school could not confirm that any commitments had been finalized between the school and Greg Singer and said that things are still “in the air.” She was unaware of controversy surrounding the building and the project, but appreciated learning of it and said that she would pass along concerns to her superiors.

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