Sunset Park: 68th Police Precinct

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).

Pigeon Entrance

Arch Entrance

Stable Arch

In the Stables

Brick and Desk

Door and Mattress

Sports Clinic

2nd Floor Collapse

Interior Ruin

Collapsed Arch





  1. Awesome post. Probably the last dig before it crumbles into the groud.

  2. These are beautiful. I work across the street from this building and I wish it would one day be restored. I am also a photographer and so I also really value these images. I wish I had the nerve to go inside!

  3. Great photos. Did you know there's an almost identical police precinct in East New York? I don't think it's in as bad shape as this one, but it is by no means pristine. Looks like it's recently been a church though I don't know it's current use.

  4. Thank you for this post. I used to live around the corner from this building on 42nd street and always wondered what lay behind the walls, never having the courage to try to find out. A music academy would be a very welcome addition to this neighborhood, but that looks like way more than $70,000 worth of repairs. Sad.

  5. These are captivating photos. I live down the street as well and have always wondered about this building. It sounds like it's in a limbo. Since it's a landmark no developer can raze the building and build something new. But the preserved building is in such bad shape it will take many, many millions to restore it. It's a shame to see such a beautiful structure in such disrepair in a place where building space is in such high demand.

  6. Like the others here I also used to drive or walk past it often - I lived at 45/5th for 5 years and the building was on my list to explore but I never did get inside. I've hit the Grain Terminal in Redhook and the Navy Yard but would love to explore this one at some point....

  7. A sister structure exists designed by the same architect and also built as a police precinct. It is located on the corner of Miller Avenue and Liberty Avenue in Brooklyn. Unfortunately it is also in terrible condition.

  8. Thank you so much for this post! Ever since I came to this country in the 90's I've always wondered what this building useto be. It truly is sad to see such a beautiful landmark deteriorate like this.

  9. There is a documentary of this building, that i had seen many years ago. I would love to see it again, but i cant remember the name.

  10. When the police vacated the building me and my organization - Street People Coalition "took" possession of the building. For weeks we worked to get it in shape and to host a 3 day health fair in the building. 1,776 people visited the health fair, we even discovered a case of TB. We then turned to the adult community and held a meeting and asked them to turn it into a community center - but they dropped the ball. While we had the building we "loaned" it to a film crew shooting the movie "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" in return for paint and plaster.

  11. For awhile a residential drug treatment program (primarily heroin addiction) called The Way took possession. As part of a skills training program they had former addicts put up scaffolding and begin "pointing" the brick work and painting the exterior. The program eventually closed and the building went on the market for taxes. A group picked it up to turn into a health spa but they never got to the point of taking possession.

  12. The group seeking to create a School of Music was a little band of gentrifiers lacking broad based community support. They spent their time having the building landmarked assuming it would bring grant money, but instead it made repairs too costly because it was now a landmarked building. So they spent the little money they had to fix the roof on the stable next door...but it never went further. The building is now owned by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association and they have done nothing for years.

  13. My dad now 93 was a police officer there for 20 years during the 50s and 60s. As a child I was very impressed by both the interior and exterior.