Call them guardian angels.
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens aims to buy Dyker Heights’ sprawling Angel Guardian Home from the Sisters of Mercy and dice-up the property into low-income housing for seniors, according to a rep with the Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community. The nuns operated an orphanage there until the 1970s, but are mulling a sale to the organization because they can no longer afford to maintain the massive grounds, said one sister.
“Catholic Charities is in the process of forming an agreement with the Sisters of Mercy and intends to convert the property into senior housing with services,” said Sister Margaret Dempsey. “But I think it’s important to note that our work continues. The building is too expensive for us to keep up, but we’re not closing — we’re relocating.”
The Sisters of Mercy opened the orphanage at the turn of the 20th century, and over the years they found homes for hundreds of Brooklyn youths — including one of this paper’s photographers — until it closed in the 1970s. Currently, the campus houses sister organization Mercy First’s foster care program and the Narrows Senior Center, which is run by Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities’ housing branch, the Progress of Peoples Development and Management Corporations, would convert the lot into housing for seniors. And it’s likely that some of the senior center’s services would continue — contrary to concerns that it would be booted sometime this year — said Dempsey.
“They run elder care there — like senior day care — so I think they’re going to keep that going,” she said.
Mercy First is slated to relocate later this year, according to Dempsey.
Now the nuns plan to move their offices into Sunset Park’s Industry City, while Catholic Charities would take over the campus bounded between 12th and 13th avenues and 63rd and 64th streets — roughly the size of three football fields.
The lot is zoned for rowhouses, meaning housing on the land could be built up to three stories, city records show. And that’s exactly what happened when the nuns sold a patch of land on the other side of 64th Street in 1989 — the developer built row houses there a year later, according to city records.
Catholic Charities did not respond to requests for comment.
Some locals feared the sprawling grounds could follow the fate of the Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in bucolic Staten Island — then one of the city’s largest undeveloped private swaths of land — which was sold to a condo developer for $15 million in 2013 despite vehement opposition from pols and residents.
But Catholic Charities’ interest in the property for low-income, senior housing puts some locals at ease.
“Well I tell you, that’d be a relief if they buy it,” said long-time Dyker Heights resident George Capodagli. “My wife and I were convinced some swanky developer was going to come in here and build condos or something.”
The sale is not final, but Catholic Charities is the only group the Sisters of Mercy are in talks with to buy the lot, and negotiations seem “promising,” according to a rep with the Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community. Capodagli takes that as a good sign.
“Sounds like they’re swooping into save the day,” he said. “Whenever something this large goes up for sale everyone wants in, so it makes people nervous. But with a name like Catholic Charities how bad could what they’re planning be? We’ll see, I guess.”