On guard: Locals fret future of Angel Guardian Home as real estate brokers dream of the property’s next life

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

The biggest real estate deal in Dyker Heights in a generation could get even bigger.

Experts monitoring the sale of the Angel Guardian Home on 12th Avenue predict that the mystery buyers will do everything they can to maximize profits on the city-block-sized lot — and that means tearing down the existing buildings and changing the zoning to let them to build much bigger than is currently allowed.

“If I was the builder, I would apply for up-zoning to build as high and to maximize as much space as possible,” said the broker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to his previous bid for the property.

The lot — bound by 12th and 13th avenues and 63rd and 64th streets and slightly larger than a football field — is zoned for three-story, 40-foot-tall row houses, the same as much of Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, and Gravesend, city records show. But if developers wanted to change the zoning to be able to build higher on the property, they would have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process, which would require extensive public review by the Department of City Planning, the City Planning Commission, Community Board 10, Borough President Adams, the borough board, the Council, and the mayor.

The city’s new inclusionary zoning law would also require the developers to incorporate affordable housing in return for any zoning change. The Sisters of Mercy have already said that the mystery buyer plans include “some affordable housing,” which would not be required if the plan was to build as of right.

But even without a zoning change, the developers can still get quite a bang for their buck. The lot just north of the Angel Guardian property — between 62nd and 63rd streets, including Tabor Court — currently fits 76 two and three-story row houses, meaning that developers could potentially fit up to 228 units on the Angel Guardian property if they used the space to its full potential under the current zoning.

And two and three-family homes can become more profitable for tenants over time than condos, the anonymous agent said, because buyers can rent out extra units. He said two-family homes in the nabe average around $1.3 million, while three-families go from $1.6 million–$1.8 million.

But locals lamented the imminent loss of the century-old structure, the memories it holds, and what its future means for the nabe. One woman who lived in foster care with other kids for 15 years after the Sisters of Mercy placed her in a home said that the Angel Guardian home served as a nostalgic reminder of her past, and she was sad that the Sisters sold it.

“It really upsets me that they sold it,” said Geraldine Grecco, who has lived on nearby Tabor Court for the past 37 years. “My foster mom raised 27 of us from the Angel Guardian home, so it holds a special place in my heart.”

Grecco echoed the calls of locals who hoped that the Sisters would choose a developer that would build affordable senior housing in the space. Her Tabor Court neighbor Annamarie Kaplon agreed, adding that a school could also benefit the nabe, which is the most overcrowded school district in the city. Kaplon also said that she would push back against luxury condos or low-income housing, both of which she said would only add to the nabe’s problems.

“I’m really hoping it’s not condominiums,” Kaplon said. “The traffic around here is terrible, the parking is terrible. We just don’t need any more condominiums. And I’m a little concerned about low-income housing — how low are we talking? I don’t know what kind of people are coming in, and that is frightening.”

But the anonymous broker said that it was unlikely the new owner would add a school or senior housing after shelling out millions for the property because neither would necessarily bring a return on the investment.

“I don’t think a school brings value, I don’t think a senior center brings value,” he said. “We always want the quiet, tree-lined street, and those are the ones you pay top dollar for.”

Grecco said she still hopes the developers will consider the community’s needs when they begin building on the property, rather than only seeing it as a potential cash cow.

“I just hope they put the property to good use — that it’s useful and not just somebody’s making millions off of,” Grecco said. “Everybody worries when there’s change, and sometimes change is good. But it’s just sad.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Lots o' lot: The sprawling site of the Angel Guardian Home will be the biggest development in the area in a generation no matter what goes there.