The fate of the storied Angel Guardian Home – a Dyker Heights institution that, since the early 1900s, took in countless orphans and went onto become a formal adoption agency in the 1970s – will be up for discussion later this month at the first open public meeting of a group called “Guardians of the Guardian.”
The meeting – scheduled for Saturday, October 21 at 11 a.m. at the Regina Conference Center (1210 65th Street, adjacent to Regina Pacis Basilica) – comes on the heels of a heated debate as to how the 140,000-square-foot-space, located at 6301 12th Avenue, can best serve the community.
There have been talks of both senior housing and a school at the site.
The “Guardians” – which first made headlines in August, 2016 as a group of about a dozen neighbors of the home whose goal is to protect and preserve the 115-year-old building – feel it should be developed into a “multi-stage senior housing complex” for area residents who would like to “retire-in-place.”
Of course, there is argument as well for the site – which comes with at least a half-a-block of green space – to become a school, as it lies within the boundary lines of District 20, one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city.
The latter – a source told this paper in May of this year – was still on the table, though, according to the “Guardians,” the property’s owners have still not committed to a prospective buyer.
However, the group contended in a press release that “there is a dire need in Brooklyn for a senior residence of this type” and that they are currently “marshalling community support for the idea of a comprehensive senior residence” that would assist local residents “in all stages of their golden years.”
Member Frank Grassi echoed those sentiments.
“We don’t need more condos in this neighborhood,” he told this paper, adding also that, as of recent years, there have been a number of schools opening up within four to five blocks of the site. “We thought about it and we said, there are a lot of senior citizens in New York City – especially in Dyker Heights, and we thought this would be a great place for those people who want to retire in place – those people who don’t want to sell their home and move to New Jersey or Florida – to do so.”
New York City, Grassi added, has very few “step up” programs that cater to senior citizens in their varying stages of life. “There aren’t a lot of places here that offer that continued care,” he said, adding that – just last week – the group collected 700 signatures on a petition for senior housing at the site, all of which they’ve mailed over to the Sisters. “We thought that this would be the perfect place for that. It’s a natural site for a senior center.”
The site was built in 1902, according to city records, and served as an extension of the Convent of Mercy, housing hundreds of orphans and eventually acting as a formal adoption agency until the 1970s.
In 2003, the Angel Guardian Home merged with St. Mary’s of the Angels Home to form the MercyFirst network of agencies. Up until late last year, the campus – which spans the entire block – housed the offices for the Sisters’ foster care program as well as a senior center.
The Dyker Heights community bid adieu to the institution at a November, 2016 goodbye party, during which employees, former volunteers and past residents were able to reminisce in preparation for Angel Guardian’s office’s eventual move to Industry City in Sunset Park.
All members of the community are welcome to attend the impending meeting. “This is the first time that elected officials, members of the public and really anyone with an interest can come and speak out about [the AGH],” Grassi said, stressing that, though the historic building undoubtedly needs a lot of work, he hopes its owners will side with the group on where to go from here.
Furthermore, the “Guardians” – who are proud to have the backing of Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association – are requesting that Brooklynites who feel strongly about the fate of the local landmark consider writing letters to local elected officials as well as Community Board 10 with their opinions.
“We’re just trying to keep the community the way it is,” Mary Jo Tipaldo, one of the members of the group, told this paper last August. “This place should’ve been landmarked a long time ago, but we are ready to make sure it is sold to the right people.”