Bay Ridge Victorian mansion demolished despite preservationist outcry

Activists had hoped to save former Masonic Club

A developer tore down a beloved Bay Ridge Victorian mansion, distressing neighborhood activists who hoped it could be saved.

All that’s left of the house at 7604 Fourth Ave. is the front stoop and the wall surrounding the ground floor. Playground equipment from its days as Grace Nursery School stands in front of rubble and torn-up trees.

The stately turreted wood-frame mansion housed a nursery school for two decades. Before that, it was the site of the Masonic Club for many years.

Bay Ridge’s dwindling number of Victorian houses is a matter of deep concern to preservationists.

“The wood-frame, turn-of-the-century houses which contribute to the character of Bay Ridge are beginning to vanish,” Kelly Carroll, the Historic Districts Council’s director of advocacy and community outreach, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“There are several which are obvious candidates for individual landmark status, and a comprehensive survey documenting them is past due,” she said.

The demolition of the Victorian mansion at 7604 Fourth Ave. is nearly complete.

Four weeks ago, the Bay Ridge Conservancy sounded the alarm about demolition plans for the mansion on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 76th Street.

Conservancy President Victoria Hofmo said at that time the demolition threat was especially problematic because the mansion was located right next to a large property at 7614 Fourth Ave. that has been a vacant lot for several years.

She had hoped the mansion could be renovated and used as a community cultural center, a school or a residence.

Now that the demolition of the Victorian mansion is nearly complete, the entire Fourth Avenue block between 76th and 77th streets is bulldozed land except for one building, the United Korean Church of New York at 371 77th St.

Hofmo said on Monday that she’s  “deeply saddened” by the demolition of the mansion.

“Was it in poor condition? No. Was it unusable?” Hofmo said. “No. It was greed, pure and simple.”

Buildings such as the Victorian mansion play a special role in the lives of long-time Bay Ridge

residents, she said. Hofmo was born and raised in the neighborhood and her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have been part of the community.

“These are not just structures,” she said.

“These are our history, our touchstones, places where our fathers and grandfathers attended meetings or we went to parties as children, when it was the Masonic Temple. Some of our children were taught there.”

Six stories plus a penthouse

On a plywood fence surrounding 7604 Fourth Ave., the developer has posted two renderings of a new residential building that’s planned for the site.

Big windows punctuate its pale-hued facade. There are balconies on the corners of the building.

In the renderings, the height of the new building appears to be six stories topped by a penthouse.

There appears to be ground-floor commercial space.

One of the renderings shows an outdoor parking lot on the property.

This design for a new building is posted on the fence at 7604 Fourth Ave.

An entity called Grace Holdings BK LLC bought the former nursery school and Masonic Club for $3.5 million in 2017, city Finance Department records indicate.

Finance Department records do not list the names of the people involved in the LLC.

City Buildings Department records identify John Kordistos as an agent for Grace Holdings BK LLC. He did not respond to the Eagle’s request for comment on Monday.

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