Showdown looming over the Slave Theater in Bed-Stuy

At this Bedford-Stuyvesant theater, there are no plays. But big drama is looming.

Expect a showdown at the shut-down Slave Theater, which the late retired Civil Court Judge John Phillips owned — between the developer group that bought it last year and the property's long-time caretaker Clarence Hardy and his son Omar.

The historic theater was an important scene of civil rights activism, where the Rev. Al Sharpton held weekly rallies following hate crimes by white teenagers against three black men in Howard Beach in 1986. The judge's estate, through administrator Samuel Boykin, sold the property to cover unpaid tax bills just in time to avert an auction.

On July 21, the city Buildings Department issued a permit to The Fulton Halsey Development Group LLC for the installation of a construction fence “to keep out intruders,” according to the application filing.

The theater at 1215 Fulton St. has been under a Buildings Department full vacate order since February 2012, when a platform behind the theater collapsed during a party and four people were injured.

But Omar Hardy said he goes inside the building all the time. What will he do when workers arrive to construct the fence meant to keep him out?

“Shut them down,” he told Eye on Real Estate.

“If they do build it, it's coming down,” he vowed.

The Bed-Stuy resident said he has previously stopped workers from coming onto the property, such as a crew who recently showed up to do soil tests.

“There's going to be some fireworks sparking soon,” he said.

“We are not giving up. We are not giving in.”

The property, built in 1910 as the Regent Theater, was purchased in 1984 by Phillips, a real estate mogul and Renaissance man who was laid low late in life by stunning misfortune.

As Brooklyn Eagle colleagues chronicled in extensive coverage, the life of the “Kung Fu Judge,” as he was known because of his love for the martial arts, became a nightmare after he was declared incompetent in 2001.

His court-appointed property guardian misappropriated massive sums from his estate, mishandled his real estate holdings and packed him off to a Bronx nursing home where he was barred from receiving visitors and made to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

After Phillips' death in 2008, Clarence Hardy, who had been his friend since the mid-1990s and the theater's caretaker, contested its sale in court but did not prevail.

The LLC that purchased the Slave Theater in February 2013 for $2.1 million is expected to build apartments on the site and neighboring property — and restore the theater. See related story.

We called Jacky Bain, a member of the Fulton Halsey purchasing entity, but he said he couldn't answer our questions and gave us the phone number of a colleague in his office.

The phone number was the same one published in online listings for Brooklyn residential developer Ore International. The man we called did not respond by deadline.

Bain is also a member of LLCs with residential projects at 181 President St. in Carroll Gardens, 265 1st St. in Park Slope and 330 St. Marks Ave. in Prospect Heights, Buildings Department records indicate.

There might be more opposition for Fulton Halsey to deal with beyond Omar Hardy's vow to tear down the construction fence meant to “keep out intruders.”  

In January, DNAinfo reported that he and his father had hired a new lawyer and planned to return to court. So do they indeed intend to sue Boykin and Fulton Halsey?

“I can't talk too much about that now,” Omar Hardy told us.

In the meantime, he and his father are trying to raise money to pay for an engineer's report on how to build a safe exit at the rear of the property, in an effort to get the vacate order lifted.

“HELP SAVE THE SLAVE THEATER,” the message on the side of its marquee says, with Omar Hardy's phone number and email address posted on a sign nearby.

An online money-raising campaign he and his father launched last winter on GoFundMe is stuck at zero. A June 28 fundraising event at the Brooklyn Christian Center brought in just $250, Omar Hardy said.

They plan to hold another “Save the Slave” fundraiser in late August.