Three entrepreneurs who invested millions to turn a derelict Fort Greene building into a music hall and art space — only to be told that the building would be demolished to make way for a city-sponsored art space — have sued the city for $10 million.
In a lawsuit filed last Tuesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Amber Art and Music Space founders Todd Triplett, Shaun Jenkins and Philip McKenzie say that the city’s plan to condemn the property at the corner of Fulton Street and Ashland Place resulted in their financial ruin.
The plaintiffs had signed a 10-year lease for the three-story building in 2005, drawn to the location because it was within the BAM Cultural District, a zone that the city is hoping to turn into Brooklyn’s own Lincoln Center.
The men, who live in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill and have extensive experience in business and arts administration, then spent a year and a half renovating the three-story space into a music hall, recording studio, art gallery and arts non-profit. They got a liquor license. They’d even booked acts through the New Year.
Then, on Aug. 21, the three men got a letter from Jack Hammer, the Brooklyn director of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, informing them of the agency’s intention to seize the building to make way for a new home for the Manhattan-based Danspace and 187 residential units, half of them affordable.
As a result, Amber Art Space never opened.
“We were four weeks away from completion, and we get this letter,” said Triplett at the time. “The city is f—king us.”
A spokesman for HPD had no comment on the lawsuit.
But according to the city’s “determination” to take the land, the acquisitions will “result in an area of Downtown Brooklyn that is presently blighted and underutilized being transformed into an area that will become a commercial center while maintaining the character of the area’s residential.”
The project acquisitions will also displace Track Data Corp, a 20-year-old financial information firm on Rockwell Place.