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In surprise move, LPC temporarily saves historic Jacob Dangler mansion from demolition

jacob dangler mansion 441 willoughby avenue
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission moved to temporarily save Bed-Stuy’s historic Jacob Dangler mansion as the body considers landmarking the historic home.
Anna Bradley Smith

The 122-plus-year-old Jacob Dangler mansion at 441 Willoughby Avenue was calendared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a last-minute, surprise move on June 8 that could prove a huge victory for local residents and preservationists who have been fighting to save the building from a pending demolition.

The vote by the LPC came in the final minutes of a four and a half hour meeting, following an email in support of landmarking the French Gothic-style property sent by Council Member Chi Ossé earlier in the day, as Brownstoner reported.

LPC Chair Sarah Carroll said the late addition to the agenda was due to the “imminent” demolition of the historic building, with developer Tomer Erlich moving forward with obtaining a demolition permit.

The LPC research team told the commissioners the house warrants further investigation because of its “fine architectural design and historic and cultural significance” to the neighborhood. The vote to calendar was unanimous.

German immigrant and prominent local meat purveyor, Jacob Dangler, commissioned the house for himself and his family. Brooklyn’s most prolific German American architect at the time, Theobald Engelhardt, designed the house for the Dangler family in 1897, online records show.

neighbors signs to save jacob dangler mansion bed stuy
The LPC will consider making the Jacob Dangler mansion a landmark, which would save it from being demolished and replaced. Anna Bradley Smith

The family owned the house until 1967, when it was sold to a Masonic chapter. The deed was transferred to the United Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star (OES) for $40,000 in 2003, and the organization is currently still listed as the owner. OES has a mortgage on the property with Advill Capital LLC for $1.525 million, records show.

Erlich told Brooklyn Paper sister publication Brownstoner on Friday he is in the process of buying the mansion and that he plans to demolish it in the coming weeks, once the permits are issued. The demolition recently passed a pre-inspection, he said, and records show he has been granted permits to install a sidewalk shed and lighting.

Erlich said he has plans to build apartments on the site, adding he would work with the community to include some affordable units and/or a community space. So far, no applications for new building permits have been filed with the Department of Buildings.

Calendering a building for a public hearing is the first formal step in the designation process, and the first step at which a building at risk of demolition can get some protection. Once a building is calendared, the DOB will not act on a permit application for 40 days. If the LPC does not designate the property within 40 days, the DOB can issue a permit.

The LPC is scheduled to meet twice again this month, on June 15 and 22.

Residents who have been organizing to save the building are “ecstatic and in total disbelief” with the last-minute decision, Lauren Cawdrey, who has helped spearhead the landmarking effort said.

“These things don’t usually go in our favor,” Cawdrey told Brownstoner. “The big takeaway for me is that time is of the essence, this is not a done deal. Now we have to organize, rally and support more than ever.” Over Instagram and email, neighbors and supporters sent dozens of messages and comments of support and surprise at the LPC’s decision, and the prospect of saving the building.

photo of people at rally outside 441 willoughby avenue
Councilmember Chi Ossé stepped in to the ongoing fight to landmark the historic 441 Willoughby Avenue on Tuesday, saying it would be the “best decision” to preserve the property. ——Anna Bradley Smith

City Council Member Chi Ossé, who sent a letter to LPC during Tuesday’s meeting calling for the building’s landmarking, said it seemed LPC understands the weight of the issue due to the haste with which the commission moved. “I’m happy that they did that, obviously there was a lot of concern in regards to time, and there still is now,” he said, adding he hopes the “beautiful mansion will be landmarked.”

Ossé said he plans to speak with the LPC to discern the next steps in the process, and Cawdrey said local residents will be meeting soon to determine their next actions within the 40-day period LPC has to make its decision.

When reached by phone the morning after the LPC vote, developer Tomer Erlich said he had just learnt of the decision, and because of that he isn’t yet sure what will happen. “We will study all the material and respond,” he said. Erlich didn’t want to comment on whether he would be pushing forward with obtaining the demolition permits, saying “I don’t know exactly which direction we’re going to go in at this stage.”

A version of this story initially appeared on Brownstoner.

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