Police and F.B.I. investigators equipped with jackhammers and pickaxes entered a concrete-floored basement on Prince Street in SoHo Thursday morning in a renewed search for evidence in the case of Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy whose disappearance 33 years ago sparked a worldwide hunt, the authorities said.
“We are here doing a search in connection with an F.B.I. investigation into Etan Patz,” said J. Peter Donald, a spokesman for the F.B.I. About 40 people from the agency’s evidence response team were on the scene, Mr. Donald said. They began arriving around 8 a.m.
The building, 127B Prince Street, at the corner of Wooster Street, is less than a block from where Etan lived, at 113 Prince, and along the route he was to have traveled in May 1979, when he was allowed to walk to the school bus stop by himself for the first time. Somewhere between his home and the bus stop, on West Broadway, he disappeared.
Investigators believe that the basement, which was abandoned at the time of Etan’s disappearance, was a known meeting place for sexual liaisons. The red seven-story building now has a Lucky jeans store on street level.
Law enforcement officials tried to manage expectations. “Just because we’re looking in a basement,” one said, “people shouldn’t expect us to come out with remains.”
The official declined to offer any details about what led them to the site or what, specifically, they were searching for. “We’re just covering a lead,” he said.
Charges have never been brought, although the police have long had a prime suspect in the case, Jose A. Ramos, an acquaintance of a woman who baby-sat for the Patzes who is now a convicted child molester serving time in Pennsylvania on another case. Mr. Ramos once admitted to investigators that he was with Etan on the day the boy vanished, but he denied abducting him or killing him.
Etan, one of the very first missing children whose likeness appeared on a milk carton, was declared legally dead in 2001.
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in 2010 that his office would reopen the case.