746-750 Nostrand, former Black Lady Theater, Sold at Auction — Brooklynian

746-750 Nostrand, former Black Lady Theater, Sold at Auction

This building which dominates Nostrand Avenue between Park Place and Sterling was most recently used as theater.  It was owned by Judge John Phillips and has been vacant for years.  In years past it had been a Kresge 5 and 10 discount store.  It was sold at auction this week for $3.96 million according to a local investor I know.  At that price, the new owner will almost certainly be expanding the building and adding residential apartments.  The fact the Judge Phillips removed the first floor and put amphitheater seating into the building will make the conversion even more expensive.  The upper two floors of this building were never updated and have remained vacant for decades. 
The building now has 11,183 square feet.  Under current C2-4/R6A zoning the new owner could potentially go to 15,975 square feet (FAR 3.0) and add another floor , making the building a floor taller than adjacent buildings.  Because the building is not landmarked, it’s unlikely that the public will have any standing to challenge the new structure unless the owner applies for a variance.
The identity of the purchaser won’t be publicly available until it is published on the City Registry which could be several weeks from now.  If someone knows the lawyer who conducted the referee sale, we might be able to find out sooner.
Needless to say, this is a big deal and will definitely change forever the look of Nostrand Avenue, the main commercial strip in Crown Heights North.


  • Can they be consolidated?
  • Sort of.

    I hear that this building sold at auction for $3.7 million. I have it on good authority that the purchaser (whoever he/she/it is) has the option to build an additional floor, as that side of Nostrand is not landmarked. 

    For those unaware of this building's history, this was the Black Lady Theater, which was founded by Judge John Phillips in the 1980s. It's sister theater, also founded by Judge Phillips and called Slave 1, on 1215 Fulton, is about to be demolished by a developer. 

  • Love the nearly complete old brick facade along that block but a shame there's not much chance of that staying.
  • Large storefronts are in demand for upscale restaurants, so it would not surprise me if we rec'd one of those.
  • that could mean the upper floor facade will stay and development is just a gut job. i hope so.

  • The existing structure probably uses a high proportion of the possible FAR available, and Franklin and Washington have seen very little demolition of existing buildings, which indicates to me that the economics don't particularly favor it in this neighborhood.
  • I believe Nostrand was upzoned since this building was constructed. ... They might be able to get some more BSF out of this lot.
  • That's conviction.
  • I own my home town.
  • Interior Demolition now occurring on the theater

  • An owner on this block asserts that the renovation is being done by illegal squatters.  The sale of The Black Lady which was announced several months has been bogged down in title issues, meaning no sale has occurred according to this owner.  This failure is creating opportunities for activities such as those observed recently. 
  • Why would illegal squatters be doing demolition?
  • And who are the illegal squatters? The purchasers, who started work early? Or strangers?
  • OH -- I answered my own questions:


    750 Nostrand Ave 

    10 am - 6 pm 

    The Black Lady Theatre will open its doors to the public for the first time in over twenty years. You don't want to miss this grand reopening event, saluting the Black woman and her authentic beauty. Our Natural is Beautiful event will showcase over twenty vendors displaying their ethnic wares and natural body and hair care products. There will be live reggae, calypso and jazz music, food and a fashion and natural hair show for everyone to enjoy. 


    So it must be boosters of the Black Lady Theater.
  • edited October 2016
    My question: where are all of those bloggers, reporters and other activists so intensely covering the gentrification of Crown Heights?.  I recall the extensive coverage afforded the taking of The Slave I Theater on Fulton Street.  The Slave II Theater, aka The Black Lady, also owned by Judge Phillips, seems to be completely ignored.
  • I am so supportive of the squatters. They seem to be doing some righteous things. And I also love that they are using the space, taking it as theirs, and not letting go of the artistic and cultural legacy of the theater.

    I'd so much prefer a living, thriving, open Black Lady Theater than a Duane Reade. 
  • edited October 2016
    Is it just me that perceives squatters who rent a dumpster and get the labor in place to be ready for Open House New York to be "more than squatters"?
  • Those of you who were around in the 60s and 70s may remember squatters renovating entire apartment buildings in the East Village.  Squatters restoring property isn't new, in fact, it's quite old.  It just hasn't happened much recently.
  • Actual squatters could rarely afford a dumpster then, either.

  • Times change.  In the 70's squatters were occupying buildings that were essentially worthless  that remained that way for decades.  750 Nostrand allegedly sold at a referee's sale for $3.96 million in December.  So it's not worthless.  

    According to Touro's law review: 

    "While nearly all states have laws around squatters rights, or adverse possession, New York added a unique requirement to its adverse possession claims in 2008, stating that in order to have a claim, the squatter must hold "a reasonable belief that he has title to the disputed property," according to the Touro Law Review. This prohibits a squatter from benefiting by intentionally trespassing on someone else's property.

    Further, New York's laws require that a squatter must make improvements to the property in the form of structural encroachments, says the Touro Law Review. This means that a squatter does not meet the requirements for adverse possession if he is simply mowing the lawn or building a fence.

    A title owner can protect himself from losing property to adverse possession simply by surveying the land at least once every 10 years and "giving permission to those engaging in activities on his property," according to the Touro Law Review."

    So it could be that the squatters here are protecting their claim by making improvements in the property.  They clearly also think they have claim to owning the building.

    So in the end, this could be a long court fight.  

  • Or, they could just be people who were offered lodging in exchange for work, from an owner who is too broke to pay wages and get a building permit.

    It is not unusual for the lowest tier of construction laborers to perceive the ability to "sleep over" as a benefit.

  • They have building permit...
  • The City has sold tax liens to wealthy investors, who have been collecting interest and penalties on these taxes for years. Two foreclosure sales have been held in the past couple of years, the most recent I believe in December. It's the wealthy investors who really own The Black Lady, not Hardy, Phillips or anyone else. This is why we need to reform tax lien sales so that distressed and iconic community buildings such as The Black Lady aren't simply auctioned off to the highest bidder, the community be damned. The City created this mess and the City should fix it.
  • Why would people who owned property allow the city greater say?
  • Surely members of the community are free to participate in the auctions, if they wish to determine the future of the properties? Or are you suggesting that the city, having foreclosed on the properties, should take the financial hit and gift the properties to "the community"?
  • edited October 2016
    Once the City sells the liens, they lose any say in the property's future.  The liens are the property of a for-profit investment group that receives funding from wealthy investors.  Lawyers working for the investors eventually foreclose on the property if the tax liens are not paid plus interest and penalties.  
    So this is a rich man's game and not for community groups.  Crowd funding is not going to cut it. This is how wealthy folks are taking over our community, with the eager assistance of the City.
    Letitia James, Public Advocate, has proposed a change in policy that would sell the delinquent taxes to a public trust, if the properties were determined to be distressed, as The Black Lady surely is. This public trust would not be for-profit but would be tasked with creating more affordable housing, not squeezing the last possible dollar out of a property.  More about the Advocate's proposal at: 
    Meanwhile DeBlasio is standing firm with his real estate buddies.  
    “We have found that the lien sale program is an effective tool to collect delinquent municipal charges," said Mayoral Spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein, adding, "HPD removes distressed properties from the lien sale where it can use its affordable housing programs, and will continue to look at how all available tools can be used to create affordable housing."
    So if the City removes distressed properties from the lien sale, why did it sell liens on The Black Lady?  Or 85 Schenectady Avenue which is the middle lot of the Imani community garden?

  • I prefer land going to the highest bidder, because I see it as less vulnerable to nepotism.

    If I was more connected to politicians, I might feel otherwise.
  • If the risk of nepotism means the community has more control I might be persuaded that way.
  • edited October 2016
    I find that I am rarely part of the communities supported by nepotism.

    My interests usually differ from theirs.
  • I try to maintain a healthy skepticism, but cynicism I try to avoid.  
    A publicly vetted trust, under the scrutiny of the Mayor, the City Council, and the Public Advocate, is going to have a hard time giving properties to insiders.  
    Some level of self-dealing will occur, but as our founding fathers enshrined in the federal constitution, checks and balances can help eliminate the most egregious abuses.
    Under the current system, tax liens are sold to for-profit investors on properties such as The Black Lady, Imani Garden, and a lot of other properties that really deserve special treatment if they are to be preserved for the community.

  • A little bit of nepotism can be a good thing. It some nepotism keeps things like the Black lady Theater or really great small businesses in place, I like that kind of nepotism. I'm more put off by the nepotism that results in things like Trump Towers or Duane Reades trouncing all over the place.
  • As a result of spending decades in the nonprofit sector, I can get nepotism funding with the best of them.

    ...but I'd rather the funding be allocated through a process that actually pursues "value" as opposed to "votes".
  • So far the redesign looks great.  It really opens up the block and makes it look  more dynamic.
  • Really interesting, what is the short/long term plan for the space?  Does anyone know?
  • Does anyone know the status on the Black Lady Theater or what is going on? I thought it was sold at auction...but looks like an active reno site.
  • edited March 2017
    Perhaps the investor leased it to the operators for a really long time.

    ...so long that they have decided to put the work into it.
  • Grand opening:  
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