Catholic Charities balks at buying Angel Guardian Home - Brooklyn Paper

Catholic Charities balks at buying Angel Guardian Home

Orphaned home: The Sisters of Mercy had hoped to sell the Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights to Catholic Charities to be converted to affordable senior housing, but the deal fell though.
File photo by Georgine Benvenuto

The sale of the sprawling Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens has fallen through, leaving the fate of the city-block-sized former orphanage in limbo.

Catholic Charities aimed to buy the land from the the Sisters of Mercy and turn it into low-income housing for seniors, but after reviewing its finances the organization has decided to call off the venture, said a rep with the group.

“[Catholic Charities] recently informed the Sisters of Mercy that it could not proceed with the transaction,” said Lucy Garrido-Mota. “After a financial analysis that took into consideration the uncertainties regarding the availability of low-income tax credits and other government subsidies for the future development of low-income housing, [Catholic Charities] determined that the project was not viable.”

Catholic Charities’ housing branch would have converted the lot between 12th and 13th avenues and 63rd and 64th streets — roughly the size of three football fields — into senior housing. But officials feel it is no longer feasible for Catholic Charities to develop low-income housing on the lot. And the news comes as a blow to locals who were ready to roll out the welcome wagon for their new neighbors.

“That’s a real shame,” said Dyker Heights resident George Capodagli. “That housing would have really helped seniors in the area. I thought we were done worrying about what would be there. Looks like we’re back at square one.”

But residents shouldn’t worry that the building will be converted into luxury condos, because the Sisters of Mercy aim to hawk the lot to a low-income housing developer, said a spokeswoman with the Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic Community.

“We continue to seek a buyer to develop the property for affordable housing and to preserve the green space,” said Debbi DellaPorta.

But now that the swath of land is back on the market, community leaders are renewing their push for the city’s Department of Education to transform the space into a public school and add sorely needed seats to the packed school district.

“I certainly think this could help meet our school space needs,” said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager for Community Board 10. “We’re the most overcrowded school district in the city — there isn’t a single school that is under 130 percent over capacity.”

Local education advocates asked the city to consider the space when this paper broke the news last February that the property is up for grabs. The lot is on the Department of Education’s radar, but the city is still weighing its options, according to Beckmann. The Department of Education did not return requests for comment.

The Sisters of Mercy built Angel Guardian Home at the turn of the 20th century, housing hundreds of children — including one of this paper’s photographers — until the orphanage shuttered during the 1970s.

At the moment, the campus houses Mercy First’s foster care program and the Narrows Senior Center, which is run by Catholic Charities. The nuns plan to move their offices into Sunset Park’s Industry City, although they have yet to set a date for the big move, according to Sister Margaret Dempsey.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

More from Around New York