Making their mark: Local pols send Angel Guardian worries to city landmarks agency

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

Local pols penned a joint letter to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission on March 1, begging the preservationists to landmark the Angel Guardian home in Dyker Heights in order to save it from demolition at the hands of its mystery buyer.

Public Advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), state Sen. Simcha Felder (D–Midwood), Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D–Bensonhurst), Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), and Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) wrote that the property’s four Beaux-Arts buildings between 63rd and 64th streets, bound by 12th and 13th avenues, are historically and architecturally significant structures that they worry the buyer will bulldoze if they’re not landmarked in time.

“We fear that the change in ownership is a direct threat to losing this complex, which has been an important part of our neighborhood for over a century,” the pols wrote. “Landmarking will ensure that these historically significant, beautiful structures will remain in Dyker Heights for future generations to enjoy.”

City records show the Sisters of Mercy built the structures — administration, nursery, reception, and laundry buildings — in 1899. The pols wrote that the buildings are a mainstay in the rapidly changing neighborhood, and that this was all the more reason they should stay standing.

“Dyker Heights’ building stock is being eroded away and has faced alternations over several generations, but the Angel Guardian complex has remained intact,” the pols wrote. “This is the most remarkable collection of buildings in the neighborhood.”

Members of the Guardians of the Guardian — a civic group calling for the nuns to choose a developer who would put affordable senior housing in the space — submitted to the landmarks commission a request to evaluate the property on Jan. 3, according to a landmarks rep. And the 28 members of Community Board 10 unanimously voted to support the Guardians’ request at their Feb. 26 board meeting.

The request for evaluation does not require support from the community board or local elected officials for the commission to move forward with the process, according to a landmarks rep, who added that there’s no guarantee that the buildings will even be considered for designation.

The rep said that a preliminary evaluation the commission conducted after receiving the initial request found that the main building might be a candidate for landmarking, and the subsequent support for the designation has led the panel to start the further research needed to begin the formal landmarking process.

“When LPC received a request to evaluate the Angel Guardian Home earlier this year, we assessed the site and determined that the main building may merit consideration as a potential landmark, but further study was needed,” the rep said in an e-mail. “Since then, LPC has received more letters regarding this property and the agency is commencing the additional research.”

But that’s still no guarantee that the building will ultimately be considered for landmarking, the rep said. If the commission did choose to start the official landmarking process, it would kick off with a public meeting, but the agency rep couldn’t provide any timeline on the soonest that could start or how long the process would conceivably take.

The landmarks’ agency’s plodding and unpredictable process is the exact reason that locals should focus on making Mayor DeBlasio care about the property, a rep from the Historic Districts Council — a private citywide historic preservation organization — told locals at the community board’s Zoning and Land Use Committee meeting on Feb. 15. In particular, she urged Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) — who worked for the Department of Education under the mayor and even had Hizzoner speak at his January inauguration — to convey how much the property apparently means to him and other locals and appeal to the mayor to pressure the landmarks agency to save it.

“The best way to get this landmarked is to get Mr. DeBlasio to care about it,” said Kelly Carroll. “I am really hoping that our new Councilmember Justin Brannan, who has a direct ear to DeBlasio, can say, ‘This is really important, can you do us this one solid?’”

Neither the pols nor the Guardians specified what kind of landmarking status they sought for the building, but the commission rep said it would be eligible for consideration under the “individual landmark” designation, which applies to the exteriors of individual structures but could also include the property itself.

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