March 30. 2009 -
PS 186 is a somber ruin looming over a busy Harlem street. Opened in 1903, this elementary school was shuttered in 1975. According to a 2005 WNYC piece "it’s been thirty years since PS 186 in Harlem was closed because of its dilapidated conditions. The neglected building has been rotting away ever since." The New York Landmarks Conservancy describes PS 186's current condition as "poor" - inside the building, trees have taken root, floors are collapsing, birds have found refuge, and yet the auditorium is filled with upright chairs. A 2007 New York Sun article promised that "development plans are emerging" but, unlike the work being done at nearby PS 90, there is no evidence that PS 186 is being redeveloped by its owners, the ML Wilson Boys and Girls Club, despite a promise made in 1986 to create a community center in the space. Like the abandoned Renaissance Ballroom nearby, PS 186 is an eloquent reminder of the Harlem's long and sometimes troubled history.
Additional images by photographers on this expedition are at Bluejake and Impose Magazine.