The standoff at the Slave Theater has begun.
“This is our theater,” said Omar Hardy, whose father Clarence claims to be the rightful heir to the vaunted but troubled Bed-Stuy institution. “This is my birthright. I was born to take care of this place.”
So when developers erected new barricades around the property in early September, the younger Mr. Hardy came by and simply tore them down.
“A bunch of police officers came,” Hardy said. “I showed them our paperwork. I made my case. They backed away.”
Simmering tensions in this long-running real estate dispute are now boiling over, with the younger Hardy and some compatriots keeping watch on the property, while an agent for the developer purportedly monitors them from across the street.
“They watch me, and I watch them,” Hardy said.
Mr. Hardy showed Brooklyn Brief photos of a barricade he said was on the property before he tore it down. The NYPD did not respond to a request to corroborate his account.
The struggle over the property was recently chronicled by the Brooklyn Eagle. Two years after the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order (for a collapsed platform at the back entrance) and one year after the property was sold by the late owner’s estate to a real estate developer (reportedly with no preservation plans at first, but later with an oral commitment to resurrect a performance space while also building new apartments), the developer is making its first moves to take control of the property.
But the younger Mr. Hardy claims his father was swindled out of proper title to the land.
Clarence Hardy, who sits out at the property’s front while his son guards the back, was a long time caretaker of the theater and of the late Judge John Phillips, who owned the property but saw his assets mismanaged by successive guardians in his later years.
The elder Mr. Hardy maintains the property was transferred to him by Judge Phillips before he was declared mentally incompetent and placed under guardianship. The transfer supposedly took place in a 1999 deed transfer to J & J Real Estate Property Corp., an entity the elder Mr. Hardy claims he owns and that Judge Phillips helped set up for him.
Others involved in the sale have dismissed these claims. The Rev. Samuel Boykin, who was the Judge’s eldest uncle and managed the property’s sale after his passing, has repeatedly accused the Hardy father-son duo of being “squatters” with no valid claims to the land. And the Courts, in 2007, voided the very deed Mr. Hardy claimed entitled him to the property, claiming Judge Phillips was already incapacitated at the time of the transfer (although his involuntary guardianship did not begin until 2001).
Still, Omar Hardy insists his father has a valid cause of action to establish title, dating back to the original 1999 deed transfer, which should not have been voided. However, he cannot afford legal representation to commence litigation.
The developer, The Fulton Halsey Development Group, LLC, has not erected new barricades as of yet, or taken any further steps with respect to the property. We reached out to them for comment and can update this post if they respond.
— Bryan Iler (@incognito23) September 7, 2014