Another Cultural Institution Stolen by Big Real Estate Developers?

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BROOKLYN, NY – January 8, 2020 —  What’s happening in our community? A question passersby should ask themselves as they walk past the newly renovated site of the historic The Black Lady Theatre in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Early last week, as families celebrated the New Year, Clarence Hardy Jr. and Omar Hardy, owners of the cultural institution were forced out of the facility by a U.S. Marshal with a claim that someone else had bought the property. Enter, big real estate developer, Mendel Gold.

This blow to the father-son duo, comes after decades of court proceedings outlining theft by court-appointed guardians, unpaid taxes and elder abuse. The theatre located at 750 Nostrand Ave., was founded by Hardy’s former business partner and dear friend, Judge John L. Phillips Jr., whose eccentric personality and charming intellect elected him into office in 1977, upsetting the political machine.

Since Judge Phillips’ decision to run against Charles J. Hynes, then Brooklyn’s District Attorney, in 1997, his affairs including more than $100 Million worth of real estate property owned both, personally by Judge Phillips and collectively by, J&J Real Estate Corporation, the organization co-owned by Phillips and Hardy has been on the receiving end of numerous illegal attacks. Fraudulent deeds and “lost” court documents continue to move amongst the shadowy corridors of Downtown Brooklyn’s Court System.

A recent court proceeding names Clarence and Omar Hardy as “tenants” and 750 Nostrand 123 LLC, an organization backed by Mendel Gold, as “landlord”. “We never had any agreement, contract or lease with the opposing party,” says Hardy regarding the Civil Court action brought out against him. According to the court’s case summary on August 1, 2019, Judge Cenceria P. Edwards grants a motion for dismissal submitted by the Hardy family following a bench trial which occurred earlier that summer but nearly four months later, the court’s order mysteriously disappears and the Judge moves to side with the opposing party, violating the Constitutional rights and protections of the Hardy team.

The most recent development in this harrowing tale of judicial misconduct, is the alleged sale of The Black Lady Theatre.  According to sources, in January 2018, the 3-story building was purchased in a tax-lien foreclosure auction – a sale in which the Hardy’s were never notified.  A look into the case files, reveals that the Petitioning Party previously wrote a letter to Judge Mark I. Partnow, to withdraw and render the case moot. This apparent ‘sale’ of The Black Lady Theatre “adds insult to injury,” said one public official referencing back to the demolition of the theatre’s sister venue, The Slave One Theater, whose land was recently purchased by an international developer with plans to turn the historic site into yet another hi-rise housing complex.

Clarence Hardy and son, Omar Hardy continue to fight for justice at every turn. The duo has already been successful in restoring the theatre bringing affordable, high-quality classes and entertainment to the community and honoring the vision of Judge Phillips by providing a safe-space for discussion, exploration and discovery, in the heart of Brooklyn.

Just before his death in 2008, Judge Phillips said, “No, no. We can’t lose this here. We need to think about opening up again. Hardy, what do you say? I imagine once we open up you won’t be able to get in here, all the people that will be coming in. Won’t be any room…” as quoted by New York Times writer Trymaine Lee in his 2007 article A Symbol of Activism Is at Center of Court Dispute. Judge Phillips’ assessment was right, in December, 2019 The Black Lady Theatre experienced its largest audience to date with lines wrapping around the block, but just a few days later, the rightful owners were displaced from their property.

The team is demanding a full investigation and prosecution of the unethical guardians appointed to Judge Phillips and the role of Charles Hynes along with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office from 1997 to 2013 and the current Brooklyn Civil Court, Supreme Court and Surrogate Court offices which have played significant roles in the injustices forced upon the legacy today.

To support this cause, visit theblackladytheatre.com/action to sign a petition in favor of the Hardy team and the mission to keep the cultural institution in the community and for other ways to get involved.

ABOUT THE BLACK LADY THEATRE

The Black Lady Theatre is Brooklyn’s historic theatre and art facility serving the greater New York City area. Also known as The Slave II, The Black Lady Theatre is dedicated to providing a safe-space for discussion and exploration while maintaining the legacy of its ancestors and the dedication of Founder, Judge John L. Phillips Jr. The Black Lady Theatre serves as a resource for the community to learn, share and experience Afrikan heritage. It is a center for the arts, activism and public scholarship in the heart of Brooklyn.