On January 8, 2020, this reporter went on a reconnaissance mission.
There was the question of whether The Black Lady Theatre on Nostrand Avenue and Slave 1 Theatre on Fulton Street had the status of being on-going concerns. It was a bit of jolt to find the Slave Theater absent from its location, 1215 Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant. It had been razed, the ground cleared, and leveled months previously, and a chain link fence wrapping around the plot’s circumference. Based on the height of the dry grass waving in the wind, the clearing could have occurred two months previously.
Curious, hopeful, the path to The Black Lady Theatre involved walking west on Fulton Street to Nostrand Avenue and a straight north-bound run up Nostrand.
Arriving at 750 Nostrand Avenue the theater was found standing but the glass doors and partitions had been lightly sprayed with white paint. Pedestrians could see the faint outlines of the lush furnishings in the foyer and the salvaged and refinished artwork from the days of Supreme Court Judge John L. Phillips, Jr.
If one pressed his face against the glass, the interior could be seen.
Judge Phillips envisioned the place being the shining jewel in the heart of Crown Heights. Presently, there is a notice pasted on the glass door informing the public by court order, the place was seized by the Marshall. This reporter was joined momentarily by two mature neighborhood men who had their insights on the situation.
One man remarked that “The theater’s rehabilitation came in time for the white people that were moving in to enjoy it.” The other man believed, “We need someone like Jay Z to take over the building because Borough President Adams wouldn’t do anything to keep a black institution.”
Meanwhile, Omar and Clarence Jr. 2X Hardy Shabazz “are staying on their square” despite the razed Slave I Theatre and the Marshall’s seizure of The Black Lady Theatre, they and others associated with the building acknowledge the deceased Judge Phillips’ legacy and support this father and son mission to uphold the Judge’s dream. This struggle over ownership and the facility’s purpose is a longstanding one. If it is indeed true that The Black Lady Theatre is out of their hands, what will they do?
Much free labor was donated to this cause. The amount of time—counted in decades—and materials that were purchased and received as donations underscore the community’s drive to build an institution and legacy. After all, the renovations to the theater were dramatic. Entrepreneurs of all trades and services rented offices in order to absorb and contribute to the creative energy that pervaded the building. For example, one man considered establishing a fish farm on the roof and another man was investigating how to harness electricity.
Another neighborhood resident named Richard shared his perspective on “neighborhood and neighborliness”. Richard remarked how pleased, yet daunted he was in trying to attend Kwanzaa 2019 with “The Black Lady.” New York Spectrum brought a truck to the first day of Kwanzaa to broadcast the event. Richard’s thoughts then shifted to “how people insulate themselves from human contact by engaging with technology and avoiding people.”
He rhetorically asked, “What is civilization—urban culture–evolving into?” If urban culture is indeed evolving into a place where people insulate themselves from human contact by focusing their attention on electronic gadgets, our society has much to consider.
It is true that U.S. Marshals forced Clarence Jr. 2X Hardy Shabazz. and son Omar out of The Black Lady Theatre by writ of Marshall Legal Possession on December 30, 2019. The notice indicated 750 Nostrand 123 LLC as the landlord and Clarence Jr. 2X and Omar Hardy as tenants.
The Hardy’s are familiar with 750 Nostrand 123 LLC and have had contact with the entity. In the spring of 2018, the Hardy’s informed the LLC’s representative that if the LLC continued to move forward, they would be participating in deed fraud as the case in which the LLC was trying to claim the property had been withdrawn and rendered moot. In fact, Judge Cenceria P. Edwards dismissed the case. The Hardy’s assert important files and supporting evidence have been lost, destroyed, or covered up.
The Hardy’s have experienced visiting the County Clerk’s Office to find court documents missing from storage areas and judges refusing to sign documents without giving a reason for the decision. As for Judge John L. Phillips, Jr., his Surrogate Court-appointed Administrators who were not properly identified were not allowed to insert themselves in the affairs of Judge Phillips, thereby, interrupting his businesses and partners.
750 Nostrand 123 LLC is one of several real estate entities created by Mendel Gold, a very active real estate developer. LLC is the abbreviation for Limited Liability Corporation. LLCs are tools used to acquire property and hide the identity of owners in that the real estate changes hands numerous times such that the property goes from one LLC to another—falling into endless “rabbit holes.” Can it be that the real estate game is addictive wherein developing competency in buying, selling, flipping, and docking properties brings on a “high”? Can this be the situation of a big dog never getting satiated?
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