Deal with the devil: Nuns rejected bid to save, landmark Angel Guardian property

Catholic Charities balks at buying Angel Guardian Home
File photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They’ll have nun of that!

The Sisters of Mercy rejected a bid for Dyker Heights’ beloved Angel Guardian home from a developer who would have kept the more-than-century-old structures standing, put in affordable or senior housing and maybe even a school, and supported landmarking the property — all of which locals and pols have passionately called for — according to the real-estate agent who represented the failed bidder.

The irate realtor said the nuns picked the richest bid without giving the other bidders a fair shot, adding that avarice was the only logical explanation.

“It’s greed,” said Gregory Bartlett, the head of RBM Brokerage. “It goes without saying that they picked the highest bidder.”

Bartlett represented a private-development firm — which did not want to be named in this story — that submitted an initial $16-million bid for the property between 63rd and 64th streets, bound by 12th and 13th avenues, the day before last year’s Oct. 25 deadline.

The firm noted in the bid that it had no intention of demolishing the existing structures, and that it would have supported either filing a request to landmark the property with the Landmarks Preservation Commission or getting the home on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places — which would have encouraged historic preservation by providing incentives, including federal-tax credits and preservation grants, according to the federal agency’s website.

Plus, the bid noted the firm’s experience preserving most of the 130-year-old landmarked St. Mark’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Fort Greene while converting it into condos, making it a particularly good fit for the Angel Guardian redevelopment and proving the developer’s appreciation for historic architecture and preservation, according to Bartlett.

The Sisters of Mercy sold the property to a mystery buyer for a price rumored to be about $24 million in December, but Bartlett said that his client was prepared to offer a final bid close to that amount — but that they didn’t get the chance to increase their initial offer since there was only one round of bidding. A separate source with knowledge of the bidding process who declined to be named said that other bidders also complained that the process was unfair because there was no chance to make a second bid.

The home’s former orphans and forlorn locals have expressed interest in keeping the historic structures, while the mystery buyer is thought to be planning to bulldoze the buildings to make way for luxury condos. A local civic group, the Guardians of the Guardian, led the push for landmarking by submitting a request to the landmarks commission to evaluate the property on Jan. 3, according to a landmarks rep.

A member of the group — which has also called for affordable senior housing in the space — said that a developer that would save and landmark the property sounded perfect, and that the nuns must have just cared about making the most profit, rather than keeping the complex intact.

“The only reason I would imagine is that they were looking for the highest bidder, the most amount of money that they could get, because that’s what they were going after,” said Fran Vella-Marrone. “Why not take the one that’s going to preserve the legacy [of the Angel Guardian home]?”

The Sisters of Mercy did not return a request for comment, and the real-estate firm that brokered the deal — CBRE Group — declined to comment.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.