Meet a Brooklyn angel!
An orphan adopted from the Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights, which is rumored to be going up for sale, has a message for potential buyers: Don’t knock down a piece of history.
“To me the obvious thing would be a school, you have to wonder how structurally sound it is, but from an architectural standpoint, I’d like to see the preservation of the existing structure — it reminds me of a place you’d see in a Charles Dickens novel,” said photojournalist Greg Mango, who was adopted there at 10-months-old in 1966. “I hope that people are careful not to jump into the first deal that comes along.”
The photographer, who regularly graces the pages of the New York Post, credits the orphanage with setting him up for a good life.
It was a cold day in January of 1966 when Gloria and Alfred Mango walked out of the Angel Guardian Home with Greg, a 10-month-old boy they just adopted from the care of the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the orphanage. A half-century later, he has nothing but praise for the Sisters, who he credits with finding him the healthy home he enjoyed.
“When they found Mr. and Mrs. Mango, it was a real windfall for me,” he said. “I don’t know their screening process, but I know they did some financial screening and likely some psychological screening as well — but my upbringing was good by every metric of how a family raises a child.”
Mango does not know his biological mother’s full backstory, but knows she was from Bensonhurst and was in what he called an unstable situation. He had a number of health issues himself, including jaundice and a broken leg, when his mother left him in the Sisters’ care — although he is not sure how that happened.
The Italian-American Mangos originally hailed from Bushwick. Mango is not sure how his parents first connected with the Sisters of Mercy at Angel Guardian Home, but it was likely through the Catholic Church — both his parents grew up in a building just around the corner from St. John the Baptist on Hart Street and were fairly religious.
A year or so after they adopted him, they moved into a neighborhood full of kids his age on Long Island, giving him what he called a “phenomenal” childhood filled with neighborhood stickball games, vacations, and home-cooked meals.
“The only crime I remember was someone breaking into our garage to steal a couple of bikes,” he said.
Five years after adopting Greg, the Mangos went back and adopted his sister from the Angel Guardian Home as well.
Mango moved back to Brooklyn after graduating college — partly to be closer to his grandparents — and has lived in the same Park Slope building ever since, spending some of that time as a photographer for this newspaper. He went back to the Angel Guardian Home sometime in the early aughts for an assignment for this paper but was unable to find any of the Sisters who were around during his short time there five decades ago, he said.
The Sister of Mercy shut down the orphanage at Angel Guardian Home in the 1970s, but continued to run a foster program there. The Sisters can no longer afford to maintain the city block-sized property and plan to sell it in the near future, although the institution has not finalized those plans.