January 25, 2011 -
A ruined 19th century police station looms over the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park. Facing the busy traffic of 4th avenue, its windows are tightly boarded up and its facade is wrapped in protective scaffolding. Abandoned since the 1970's, this is the "68th Police Precinct Station House and Stable," according to a NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission report, "a handsome and imposing civic ensemble" designed in 1886 by Emile Gruwe, who created a "powerfully massed Romanesque Revival" building with Venetian elements and Byzantine influences. The building opened on March 8th, 1892, according to the NY Times, and served as "the castlelike stationhouse of the old 18th Police Precinct" of the Brooklyn Department of Police. On opening day, the Brooklyn Police Commissioner stated "a man about to commit a crime would stand appalled at the sight of a stationhouse such as this."
Today the station house is in poor condition. Its exterior still retains many evocative architectural elements, however the interior has been almost completely destroyed by fire and decay. Snow sifts through large holes in the roof. The upper floors have collapsed, while lower floors are missing, warped or dangerously unstable. Feral cats and pigeons roam the hollow space. A squatter's mattress rots in a dark corner. In several pitch-black back rooms, sealed off from the sunlight, hundreds of handprints climb the walls.
When landmarked in 1983, the station house and stables had already "been vacant since the mid-197os," according to the NYC Landmarks Commission, and a 1980 fire had gutted much of the precinct building's interior. Shortly after receiving landmark status, the buildings were sold to the Sunset Park School of Music for $15,000, according to the NY Times, and in 1988, the music school received a $67,500 grant "for exterior restoration and interior renovation... for offices, teaching and performance space," according to the NY Times. More then 20 years later, there are few signs of progress on this renovation. Instead, a stop work order has been placed on the property for a variety of safety violations, and the station house has been placed on the New York Landmarks Conservancy list of "at risk" historic structures that are deteriorated and endangered. Without prompt attention, this neglected landmark may soon crumble away and vanish, despite being within plain view of thousands of daily passersby.
For more photo essays from Brooklyn's Sunset Park please visit Bush Terminal (2007), the Brooklyn Army Terminal (2008), the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (2009), Empire Electric (2009) and S & S Machinery (2010).