Classroom’s sale dismissed: Old C’Gardens school beloved by Joan Baez back on market as city considers landmarking • Brooklyn Paper

Classroom’s sale dismissed: Old C’Gardens school beloved by Joan Baez back on market as city considers landmarking

Save it, don’t raze it: Local leaders and residents are calling on the city to landmark this historic President Street building before it gets demolished and replaced with apartments.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

A former Carroll Gardens schoolhouse that locals and folk singer Joan Baez demanded the city protect amid rumors that a developer sought to buy and raze it is back on the market weeks after officials moved closer to landmarking the building, according to the broker handling the sale.

“The owners have put it on the market because they want to sell it,” said Brian Lover, who works for real-estate firm Corcoran.

Last month, whispers swirled alleging that Manhattan-based builder Avo Construction was working out a deal to buy the building at 236 President St. — a 19th-century learning house known then as the Hans S. Christian Memorial Kindergarten, which later became the home of Brooklyn’s first Spanish-speaking church, where Baez’s Mexican-born grandfather preached.

Many feared the developer would destroy the old structure and erect a seven-story apartment building in its place, but critics said Avo bigwigs never went through with the deal after its opponents convinced the Landmarks Preservation Commission to kick off the formal landmarking process by “calendaring” a to-be-determined public hearing on whether or not to protect the building and its neighbor at 238 President St. — which housed teachers at the school, then clergy at the church, before becoming residences for locals.

“It would seem that Avo has stepped away from the deal,” said Jim Protos, a proponent of landmarking the buildings who owns and lives in 238 President St. “We were surprised to see it go back on the market.”

Corcoran listed the 1867 schoolhouse between Clinton and Court streets with an asking price of $4,950,000, and advertises the current structure as a six-bedroom, four-bathroom house with a courtyard and terrace that a buyer with “vision” can turn into a “one-of-a-kind home.”

Protos, who still supports landmarking both buildings even though Avo’s purchase of 236 President St. fell through, hopes that whoever scoops up the old kindergarten will maintain its size and architectural details — which include soaring ceilings and stained-glass windows, according to the listing — even if the city does not designate it for protection.

“We hope it gets landmarked,” he said. “Ideally it would be really nice to be a single-family home — I think that would honor
the history of the building.”

But it’s anyone’s guess who or what the old school’s owner — who has remained silent amid the landmarking push — will attempt to sell it to next, according to Protos, who said the couple that owned the building died several years ago and left it to their kids, who have since rented it out to different tenants.

“It’s basically been vacant except for periodic renters,” he said.

Lover refused to share the owner’s name, but city records show the building belonged to a Giuseppi Gangemi — who bears no obvious relationship to recently deceased former Bay Ridge Councilman John Gangemi, according to his obituary.

Avo Construction did not respond to requests for comment, and a rep for the landmarks agency said the building’s new for-sale sign has no bearing on its upcoming hearing or final decision.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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