Sunset Park’s Landmarked Police Precinct Station: A Beautiful Ruin

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“A man about to commit a crime would stand appalled at the sight of a station house such as this,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote in 1892 of Sunset Park’s once splendid and now crumbling but landmarked police precinct station house and stables at 4302 4th Avenue.

In 1892, such a statement was meant to praise the building’s intimidating, castle-like features, but today it is equally fitting as a reference to the unfortunate extent of decay in what was clearly a once-beautiful structure.

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Rare survivors, the station house sits facing 4th Avenue with a brick passageway connecting the main precinct to a back stable building.

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It has stood at the corner of 43 Street for 129 years. In a saga reminiscent of Crown Heights’ oldest structure, the landmarked Elkins House at 1375 Dean Street, previous owners pledged to save it but instead let it deteriorate further.

The decay is so extreme there is near collapse inside the main building, with the floors completely caved in all but the peripheries, and the second story completely gone.

The state is so decrepit, the two buildings are not much more than shells. Technically still considered to be a three-story structure, today the station house is more of a fixer-upper single story with incredibly high ceilings.

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Built in 1886, the building was designed by architect Emile M. Gruwe, who gave the former 68th Precinct station house a Romanesque Revival structure with Byzantine-inspired Venetian styled turrets and arches.

Little is known of Gruwe’s life and career, but in addition to the Sunset Park Precinct he also designed East New York’s similar 76th Police Precinct, which is still standing at 484 Liberty Avenue.

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Forsaken by the police in 1970, and then ravaged by fire in 1980, the building had been deteriorating for a decade when it was landmarked.

In 1999, local community education organization the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association purchased the building. The group planned to restore the building and use it as a community center.

Ultimately, the nonprofit did little with building. It amassed more than $50,000 in fines from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for allowing the structure to fall into further disrepair.

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The LPC threatened to sue the Chinese-American Association, but they evaded court, listing the property at 4302 4th Avenue and the corner of 43rd Street for $6,000,000 in March, as we reported at the time. In July, Yosef Streicher paid the asking price and acquired the 14,040 square-foot precinct, 5,952 square-foot adjacent stable, and 14,567 in additional air rights, according to the Commercial Observer.

The developer has not commented on plans for the properties, which would need to be converted to residential before being developed as apartments. The buildings are merely shells at this point, but because they are landmarked, their exteriors will need to be restored. Any plan will need approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Below, shots of the building taken in 2012.

Sunset Park Police Precicnt

Sunset Park Police Precinct

Sunset Park Police Precinct

Sunset Park Police Precinct

Sunset Park Police Precinct

Sunset Park Police Precinct

Sunset Park Police Precinct

[Photos: Cate Corcoran and Hannah Frishberg]

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