Fire makes school building hotter

The Brooklyn Paper
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The fire is out at St. Charles Borromeo School in Brooklyn Heights, but the building is hotter than ever — thanks to a decision by the Brooklyn Diocese to close the school and sell or lease the property.

A minor blaze in the school’s basement on Feb. 6 shut down the institution, but everyone was under the impression that the closure was only temporary. A week later, the Diocese announced that the Catholic school would never re-open.

The Church said that in the last couple of years “the number of students has dropped from 181 to 113.”

The fire was the crown of thorns after the whipping.

The announcement took parents completely by surprise. But what is not surprising is how much money the Diocese could get for the three-story building, which is at 23 Sidney Pl. between Joralemon and State streets.

“Our general policy is to lease our buildings,” Diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa told me. “We don’t usually sell, but we haven’t made a decision here yet.”

Given the value of the building — and given how the so-called Borough of Churches is quickly becoming the Borough of Church Condos — it’s clear how easily the Diocese could fill the collection plate by selling.

The building itself is in the Brooklyn Heights historical district — a landmark zone where all the buildings possess historical value. It’s what we all love about the Heights.

Any changes to the exterior would have to be approved. But the Diocese can sell the building to whomever it wants, and that person can do whatever he wants on the inside.

“It’s hard to tell what the building might go for without knowing what the ultimate use might be,” said Brian Leary, a partner at the Massey Knakal real estate firm. “But the area is extremely desirable, and the fact that it’s in a historical district raises the value.” I also found out that a townhouse across the street recently sold for $4 million. And since the school is about the width of three townhouses, all I can say is: Cha-ching.

The Kitchen Sink

At least DUMBO residents don’t have to resemble their neighborhood’s namesake, thanks to the opening of Fitness Guru, the new gym on Front Street. There are no membership fees — only “pay as you go” fees for classes or training sessions. A personal training 10-pack costs $700. Walk-ins who just want to use the equipment are also welcome — for $35 a pop (or 100 sessions for $1,000). It’s not cheap, but neither is being out of shape. ... How hip is DUMBO? So hip, that even babies need sample sales. ModernTots on Pearl Street had a sample sale last week, selling clothes, toys and baby furniture discounted up to 40 percent. We heard it was BYOP (bring your own pacifier). …

Who knew the Brooklyn Public Library could help you start your own business? The library is hosting a business plan competition for wanna-be entrepreneurs: Submit your business plan for a chance to win $15,000 in start-up money. Call (718) 623-7000 to register. …

City Tech is offering a new associate degree program in industrial design technology. Students will be trained to create 2D and 3D computer graphics and animations, use new technologies to solve real-world engineering problems and build evil robots to take over the world. …

St. Francis College is bringing back the love. On March 10, the school will recreate the love-all-mankind vibes of the 1960s and ’70s by organizing a “Folk Fest” — an evening of music and fellowship reminiscent of events the school held 30 years ago. Tickets are $20 and don’t forget your bell-bottoms. …

If you’re really curious about the history of baseball in Brooklyn, then the Brooklyn Historical Society is looking for you. Starting on March 3, the society is offering a series of classes for high school students on baseball, as well as courses on Brooklyn’s historic houses, the SATs and AP History. Call (718) 222-4111 to find out more.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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