The century-old former orphanage at the historic Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights may soon receive landmark status, according to city officials who will hold a public hearing next week about the potential preservation of the embattled site.
“The building’s prominence derives from his architectural quality, as well as its monumental scale spanning the entire width of the block and its sighting back up on a hill,” said the chairwoman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Sarah Carroll, at a June 30 hearing. “We felt that it was essential that the main building be preserved.”
The Aug. 11 public hearing will allow locals to submit testimony about the building situated on a sprawling, block-long property bound by 63rd and 64th streets and 12th and 13th avenues.
The Sisters of Mercy owned the orphanage and its surrounding campus from its 1899 founding, later converting the space into a social services hub and then into a senior center.
In 2018, the Sisters sold the property to developer Scott Barone for $37.5 million, spurring backlash from community members who slammed the Sisters for evicting the site’s seniors and for threatening the future of the historic campus.
Local leaders submitted a request to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to preserve the whole property in 2018 following the sale, but the land was divided up into three parcels, sold, and largely demolished before the agency could even consider landmarking it.
The portion of the campus facing 13th Avenue was sold to the School Construction Authority, who plans to build a public school on the lot, the middle section was sold to a developer who bulldozed the area to build condos, and Barone plans to turn the main building and chapel facing 12th Avenue into assisted senior living.
The demolition of most of the serene campus erased much of the Angel Guardian’s history, an expert said.
“There were sidewalks, there were landscape features, there were trees,” said Kelly Carroll, the director of advocacy and community outreach for the Historic Districts Council. “It was really was a bucolic island.”
Residents are happy the agency will consider the campus’ main building — which, if passed, will become Dyker Heights’ first landmark — but said they hoped the commission also landmarks a building to the right of the main structure, which locals suspect was the Sisters’ convent.
“We’re happy about it. [But] we’re surprised that the [convent] right behind it was not included,” said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of local Community Board 10. “The main building and the convent are the largest buildings on the lot.”
One local leader said that the Angel Guardian complex’s history is retained not just in the main building, but in the remaining campus as a whole.
“I will be testifying [at the hearing] that, consistent with what we’ve said from the beginning, we wanted the entire lot to be landmarked,” said Fran Vella-Marrone, the head of the Dyker Heights Civic Association. “And the only part of the property that’s left is these buildings.”
Not only is the convent a local treasure, Carroll added, but it also boasts the same architectural features as the main building.
“The Angel Guardian building wasn’t a lone structure,” she said. “It’s completely architecturally intact. All of the buildings are built in an Ecclesiastical Beaux-Arts style.”
Community leaders including Vella-Marrone, local councilman Carlos Menchaca, and Community Board 10 chairwoman Lori Willis penned a July 23 letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking the agency to include the convent in its landmarking decision.
“We urge you to include and designate this elegant structure,” the group wrote. “It will be destroyed if you do not act to expand the landmark site, which is an unfortunate beginning for Dyker Heights’ first landmark.”
Residents can submit background information about the property or questions or comments on an online form before 4 pm the Monday before the Aug. 11 meeting.