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Students unearth trove in East Village classroom closet

On Feb. 3, 1959, 8-year-old Alan Lederman brought $2 to PS 61 to sock away in a school savings account. As he hung his coat in the closet, the deposit envelope fell through a crack in the floorboards.

His two silver certificates lay buried for 58 years. But last spring, fourth-graders at Lederman’s East Village alma mater, now called the Children’s Workshop School, dug them up — one a wrinkled 1935 bill, the other a pristine 1957. Then, teacher Miriam Sicherman tracked down two wrong Alan Ledermans until she found the right one.

“I was stunned to learn that someone had found the money after all those years,” said Lederman, now 67 and an international tax lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Hundreds of other lost — or stashed — artifacts have been exhumed from their dusty grave by Sicherman’s students. Now the items are on display at The City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in an exhibit, “Closet Archeology: An Accidental Time Capsule.”

An old photo of Alan Lederman.Helayne Seidman

The relics include Betty Boop and World War I buttons, a copper buffalo nickel minted between 1913 and 1938, a 1912 baseball card from the pre-Yankees Highlanders, Bazooka bubble-gum comics and a petrified hamster — possibly once a class pet.

The excavation started in 2015 when Bobby Scotto, now 12, wondered what might be hidden beneath his East 12th Street school, built in 1913.

“Then it hit me — there’s cracks in the closet where the door slides open. People are always walking in there. I was like, ‘Hey, they might have dropped some stuff down there,” Bobby told The Post.

“I looked into the crack, and in five minutes, my theory was proven right.”

He used two pencils to coax up a tarnished 1946 wheat penny, one of several he would fish out. Soon, the whole class joined in the dig, using scissors and coat hangers to grab myriad odd mementos.

Not even the rat skeletons deterred the young treasure hunters.

“It takes a lot to creep us out these days,” Bobby said.

School deposit slip for Alan Lederman unearthed by children digging through the floor boards in their classroom at PS 61.Helayne Seidman

After Bobby and his classmates graduated from fifth grade, Sicherman’s subsequent students dug in other closets. Finally, custodians pried open the floorboards, revealing “a ton of stuff,” the teacher said.

The dirt-clogged spaces bore tattered classwork, like Jane Itzkowitz’s May 5, 1959, spelling test. Sicherman found Itzkowitz — now Jane Klein, 67, who became a city teacher in The Bronx and now lives in Seattle.

A crumpled note from Cindy to Luis read: “Should I tell Hericka that you like her?”

“NO, keep that a secret,” he wrote back.

Sicherman did not find Hericka. But she connected with Alan Lederman’s brother, Larry, who attended PS 61 six years after his sibling. The ex-New Jersey horse-racing announcer visited Children’s Workshop, telling awestruck kids about a world devoid of computer games — but charged with the excitement of 15-cent pizza and 50-cent bowling.

“The school looked exactly the same. I used to hang my jacket in those closets,” he reminisced.

Meeting Larry gave the kids an “intimate connection” to the artifacts, Sicherman said.

“The objects they found made them curious about the daily lives of their predecessors,” she said. “They also began to see themselves as part of history — and realized that their own daily lives would be fascinating to kids of the future.”

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