Sisters find buyer for Angel Guardian Home

Orphaned home: The Sisters of Mercy had hoped to sell the Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights to Catholic Charities to be converted to affordable senior housing, but the deal fell though.
File photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Angel Guardian finally got its wings.

The Sisters of Mercy have found a buyer the sprawling Angel Guardian home in Dyker Heights, according to a spokeswoman, who said the new plans will include “some affordable housing” and open public space. But some locals are disappointed that it doesn’t seem to be earmarked for seniors as many had hoped.

The future of the building, which takes up an entire city block, has been hotly debated among local pols, organizations, and civic groups since last year, when the Bay Ridge Courier broke the news that the Sisters of Mercy would sell the space. The terms of sale are still secret, according to the spokeswoman, which frustrates some locals, including one who spearheaded an effort urging the Sisters to ensure that the property would be devoted to affordable housing for seniors.

“I don’t know what they mean by ‘some affordable housing’ — what the affordable housing it is, who it’s for,” said Fran Vella-Marrone of the Guardians of the Guardian Committee, a civic group that organized a petition and letter-writing campaign that led nearly 1,000 Brooklynites to call on the Sisters to select a developer who would create affordable senior housing, support services, and open space. “They didn’t say it was for seniors, we’re looking for senior housing there.”

At a neighborhood meeting last month about the future of the property, Vella-Marrone said that 20 percent of Dyker Heights residents are more than 60-years-old — far more than can be accommodated by the area’s only affordable-senior-housing development, Shore Hill in Bay Ridge. Shore Hill has 558 apartments for elders — 325 studios and 233 one-bedrooms — with 450 local oldsters on a waiting list just for the studios, according to a spokesman for the residence.

The sale appears to fit the Sisters’ plan for the space, since the nuns earlier this year said that they aimed to sell the building to an affordable-housing developer.

The Catholic Charities Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens earlier this year planned to buy the space and turn it into low-income housing for seniors before a financial analysis showed that the project wasn’t viable, according to the diocese.

At last month’s neighborhood meeting, a representative from Catholic Charities presented a new proposal for the space, which included 90 mixed-income apartments for seniors making 30–130 percent of the area’s median income of $90,000, plus medical and support services, as well as a senior center, dining room, and recreation facilities that would all be open to the public, and also a space that could possibly be used as a public primary school.

But a source close to the matter said that Catholic Charities’ bid — the only one known to specifically include affordable senior housing — was not the one the Sisters chose. The same source said the sale price was around $23 or $24 million.

Catholic Charities could not be reached for comment.

The Sisters of Mercy constructed the building in 1899 and operated it as an orphanage until the 1970s. The grounds cover the area of three football fields, bounded by 12th and 13th avenues and 63rd and 64th streets. Until now, the site has housed the offices of the foster-care program of sister organization Mercy First, as well as the Narrows Senior Center, run by Catholic Charities. The lot is zoned for rowhouses, and a developer could build up to three stories on the land, city records show.

Vella-Marrone said that the committee only found out about the sale last week because members repeatedly contacted the Sisters of Mercy for more information on the future of the building. She added that the group is waiting on the Sisters to provide it with more information about the terms of sale, which she said locals deserve to know.

“It’s very vague. We still feel like we’re in the dark, and we deserve to know a little bit more since we’ve been communicating with them on a regular basis and we’re the community,” she said. “I think it’s only appropriate that the Sisters let us know — what is the development going to be?”

The spokeswoman from Sisters of Mercy did not respond to a request for comment about when the current occupants of the building would need to leave, when the new owners would take possession, or any other details about the terms of sale.

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

More from Around New York