This ‘Angel’ is still broken

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Broken Angel may finally have met its demise. In a blow to the idiosyncratic character of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix on May 2 ordered Arthur Wood, the artist who painstakingly built the Downing Street ziggurat, to finally remove its upper floors within 10 days, as Wood promised the city he would back in December.

And this time, Wood told The Stoop that he would actually follow orders.

“I am complying,” said Wood. In so doing, he is agreeing to dismantle the building that he and his wife built together, by hand, over a lifetime, the home in which they raised their family, and in which he worked.

Wood’s defeated tone on Monday differed markedly from that of the feisty artist arrested last fall after Angel’s upper floors burst into flames. As a result, the city declared the building unsafe and issued a vacate order.

Woods defied it.

“I told them they would have to arrest me,” Wood said at the time.

They did.

After Wood was released, the Buildings Department demanded that he renovate the Angel to comply with zoning restrictions and the building code. Wood’s family frantically tried to raise money for the repairs, when a local developer named Shahn Andersen came to the rescue.

Andersen now owns 50 percent of the building, and has been working with Wood to stabilize the structure and then turn it into condos (including one for Wood). He has vowed to resurrect the Angel in non-flammable form.

He has also been helping Wood deal with the city, but he told The Stoop on Monday that the artist’s resolve is wilting.

“Arthur is a little wearied by the whole thing,” said Andersen.

Wood’s December agreement with the city, which the judge upheld, requires him to remove the multi-tiered, fantastical wooden structures that sit on top of the four-and-a-half story brick building below. Sadly, the portion to be removed is the only part of the Angel that truly transcends into the realm of art. It is there that the mosaics, stained glass and open air combine to create a reflective and awesome experience from which one can see Manhattan’s skyline and Brooklyn’s borders.

Andersen was hoping to forestall the upper levels’ demise until he could make the case for a zoning variance before the Board of Standards and Appeals.

The judge’s recent order killed that dream for good.

To make matters worse, Wood has lost the support of a local heavyweight, Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), who had been serving as his pro-bono lawyer during his dealings with the city. “Wood decided to go in another direction,” said James, explaining why she removed herself from the case. “He decided to try to preserve the top of the structure.”

Meanwhile, the Buildings Department is vexed that the judge has given Wood 10 more days to remove the ziggurat top.

“While we prefer to ensure public safety by rectifying unsafe building conditions in the most expeditious way, we respect the judge’s decision to allow the owner, Arthur Wood, and developer, Shahn Andersen, an additional opportunity to remove the unsafe portion of the building,” said Kate Lindquist, a Buildings spokeswoman.

Be that as it may, the Broken Angel will no longer fly. It flew too close to the heavens, and it got burnt. “I don’t feel very good about [this],” said Wood. “I can’t talk anymore right now. I’m demolishing the building.”

The Kitchen Sink

Camera-crews inconvenienced dozens of residents last Thursday for 18 whopping hours, so that Eyewitness News could film a commercial at South Elliot Place and DeKalb Avenue. Now, if only WABC would improve its local coverage. …

Hungry for all-you-can-eat vegetarian meatballs? We hear Rice, on DeKalb Avenue and Cumberland Street is hiring. …

Find out for yourself whether the Wallabout section of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill is really becoming the next DUMBO. South of the Navy Artists, an arts organization, will hold its eighth annual gallery stroll next weekend, and this year it includes 100 artists at more than 40 neighborhood venues. For info, go to

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