Bed-Stuy’s Dangler Mansion has achieved Landmark status. Then why was it turned into rubble?

Around 5pm on a sweltering July night, Lauren Cowdery’s phone started ringing. Her neighbors on Willoughby Her Avenue in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn are on the corner of Willoughby Her Avenue and Nostrand Her Avenue She is a chateau-style mansion built around 1900. From her Dangler House It had reported that the windows had been removed.

Corddry, vice president of the Willoughby Nostrand Mercy Block Association, and her neighbors have been on the brink of demolition for months after hearing of plans to demolish their ornate brick and limestone home. was on the verge. – Unit apartments in the location. In response to a resident’s request, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission decided in June that he would consider designating the building a landmark, extending a 40-day period during which the Buildings Department would not normally issue demolition permits. It has started, said a spokeswoman for the building division. Landmarking the building could have prevented demolition.

On July 10, 2022, before the Dangler Mansion was demolished, developer Tomar Ehrlich met with locals at 441 Willoughby Avenue.

Anna Bradley-Smith/Brownstoner

At a Landmarks Preservation Commission virtual hearing on the topic held on July 12, more than 70 people said the landmark of the turreted building, one of the few remaining Gilded Age mansions in the city provided supporting written testimony. The United Grand of the Eastern Star was owned by a Masonic organization known as His Chapter Order, used as headquarters and rented out for events such as weddings and baby showers. The group has a deal to sell the property to He Tomer Erlich, a developer who plans to build apartments on the site.

The Landmarks Commission had yet to make a decision on July 20 when neighbors noticed the windows had been removed. They thought there must be something wrong, Ms. Corddry said. They called 311 to report what they believed was an illegal demolition and went to bed.

Around 9 a.m. the next day, residents were shocked to see the demolition begin in earnest. Workers were “sticking it out of the cherry picker and shingles were flying everywhere,” Ms. Corddry said. Within hours, the mansion was leveled.

“It really was the crown jewel of this block, but now it’s just a pile of rubble,” Cawdrey said. “I need some answers.”

On behalf of the LPC, Mayor Eric Adams’ office said in a statement: Developers were therefore able to obtain demolition permits before the LPC made its designated vote. ”

The demolition spooked neighbors, but the seeds of the building’s demise came years ago when the property was fraudulently mortgaged without United Grand Chapter’s knowledge, according to court documents filed in the New York State Supreme Court. The nonprofit, which faced foreclosure, said it had no choice but to sell the building at the LPC hearing.

The United Grand Chapter did not respond to a request for comment, and Arlene B. Pannett, the chapter’s Grand Matron, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Erlich said by phone that the building was unmarked at the time of demolition and declined to comment further. His attorney, Eliad Shapiro, said at his LPC hearing on July 12 that Mr. Erlich strongly opposed the building being marked, and the LPC asked what could be done if the building was marked. He said he felt he hadn’t been given enough time to consider it.

According to the LPC, the Dangler mansion was built as the home of German immigrant Jacob Dangler, a successful meat processor and food merchant. The home, designed by Brooklyn architect Theobald Engelhardt, has 17 rooms and a bowling alley, according to his 1940 advertisement for his Eagle in Brooklyn.Since 2003, the United Grand Owned by Chapter.

According to Celeste Jefferson, the group’s associate grandmatron, maintenance of the building has become difficult over the years, and the group has struggled to book enough events to cover the costs. When it hit, it really destroyed our finances,” she said. When contacted by phone, Jefferson declined to comment.

Then, in December 2020, United Grand Chapter received a foreclosure notice from its lender, Long Island-based Advil Capital LLC. This was due to the Dangler Mansion mortgages totaling $1.525 million. United Grand Chapter employee Toni Watson and the group’s former grand matron and president, Connie Greene, had taken out mortgages on the building without the group’s knowledge, United said. The Chapter also said Ms. Watson and Ms. Green had fraudulently amended the group’s bylaws to appoint a man named Paul Alvarenga as an officer of the women’s group United Grand Chapter. and claimed in court documents to help them carry out the plan. The three used the mortgage proceeds for their own personal gain.

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Watson, Green and Alvarenga didn’t respond to requests for comment. Green, who now lives in Colorado and is no longer associated with United Grand Chapter, said in court documents that the loan was approved by the group’s board of directors and knew about the mortgage. said they did not receive any personal benefit. .

Stefan Greich of Greich Siegel & Farkas, the attorney representing Advil Capital, said Green and Watson had proper authority to make loans and that the mortgage fraud allegations would forestall foreclosure. said it was an attempt. He added that the demolition of the building also violated the terms of the mortgage. A foreclosure case is in progress.

Remains of Dangler Mansion, August 3, 2022.

Rayon Richards of The Wall Street Journal

United Grand Chapter now owes Advil more than $2 million, including interest and late fees, United Grand Chapter attorney Mark Brandoff said at the LPC hearing.

United Grand Chapter signed a deal last fall to sell the building to Mr. Erlich for $4.3 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Erlich has numerous properties in Brooklyn, including his seven-unit condominium at 221 Devoe Street in East Williamsburg and his seven-story mixed-use building at 825 DeKalb Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Developed a housing project.

An application for a demolition permit for the Dangler Mansion was filed in March by a group associated with Erlich, DOB said.

At a hearing on July 12, members of the United Grand Chapter said the building’s landmark jeopardized its sale and threatened financial ruin for the group.

“If the sale doesn’t go through because you marked the land, we’re going bankrupt,” Mr. Brandoff said at the hearing.

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Graffiti on the construction fence surrounding the site, August 3, 2022.

Rayon Richards of The Wall Street Journal

Among those who gave written testimony in support of Landmark was actor Edward Norton. Willoughby His Avenue was one of his filming locations for his movie Motherless Brooklyn. Supporters say the building needed some work, but was generally well restored and a candidate for adaptive reuse.

New York State Rep. Stephanie Zinnerman said, “It was an intact mansion that needed maintenance.

If the building was designated as a landmark, grants to convert it into uses such as community centers, performance spaces and affordable housing, according to Andrea Goldwyn, director of public policy at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. is likely to be subject to The landmark building has also been adapted for market-priced residential and commercial use, she said.

“It could easily have been rehabilitated in a way that would have been given [the developer] Suzanne Spellen, architectural historian and columnist for the website Brownstoner, said:

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After the meeting, Mr Cawdrey said neighbors were optimistic that the LPC would vote for the building’s landmark. “We seemed very close.”

However, the Commission had yet to vote on July 17, when the 40-day moratorium ended. According to DOB, the demolition permit was issued to him on July 19th and the building was demolished on July 21st. Later that day, the building department issued a work stoppage order due to “unsafe conditions” at the site and the improper use of excavators to carry out the demolition, but the mansion was already nearly gone. By, someone sprayed the words “more developers, more problems” onto the dark green construction fence surrounding the site.

In response to the building’s demolition, preservationists are “just pissed off,” Speren said. She said she had never seen a situation where the Landmarks Commission “would run out of clocks that way, like rejecting a building or setting a landmark.”

The mansion spanned 4 lots on the corner of Nostrand and Willoughby Avenues in Bed-Stuy, August 3, 2022.

Rayon Richards of The Wall Street Journal

Edward Norton in 2020.

Getty Images

A statement from the mayor’s office said the administration “has taken immediate steps to prevent such problems in the short term” and has “already developed permanent technical solutions to prevent such errors from happening again. I am doing it.

In Zinerman’s view, even though Erlich had received a demolition permit, he should not have demolished the building while the LPC was considering installing a landmark. “He overturned the LPC’s decision by overturning his LPC’s decision,” she said, adding, “There is no justification for what he did.” She said she wanted him to stop building on the property.

Since then, the site has had 12 violations, including working without a permit and violating a work stoppage order, for a total of about $270,000 in potential fines, the building department said. increase. Penalties, if any, will be determined by the City Administrative Tribunal and hearings with the Board of Inquiries.

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Demolition of New York City’s historic buildings is fairly common, Spelen said, driving up property prices, especially in previously low-income neighborhoods. Often times, cash-strapped churches and civic groups feel they have little choice but to sell their historic buildings to developers. It said it was vulnerable to predatory lending and the like. “People will show up at your door trying to pressure you into selling your house,” she said.

Cawdrey said New Yorkers shouldn’t assume that historic buildings are safe from demolition. “Just because it’s old and beautiful doesn’t mean it’s protected,” she said.

The work stoppage order is still in effect, but has been partially canceled to allow for debris removal, according to the Buildings Department. Cawdrey said neighbors will attend a hearing on his violations scheduled for November. “This demolition — it won’t go to waste. Something really needs to change systematically,” she said.

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