Bed-Stuy’s Slave Theater Sold, Likely to Become Condos


Looks like the fate of the Slave Theater on Fulton Street in Bed Stuy is finally sealed. According to an article in the Daily News the theater is likely to become condos. It’s unclear from the story how the historic building will be incorporated into the development. The theater was almost auctioned off several times to cover outstanding debts and could have sold for as little as $190,000 at one point. That low price gave hope to The New Brooklyn Theater which was trying to raise $200,000 to purchase the property and use it as a community space and theater. The property, which was once a hub for civil rights activists, was part of the estate of Judge John Phillips, which is being managed by Rev. Samuel Boykin. The estate was mired in disputes over ownership of the theater and it was swimming in debt which prompted the near brushes with auction and eventually the sale. According to the Daily News, “in 2009, relatives of Phillips, who owned the theater until his death in 2008, were forced to put the building on the market to pay off more than $1.5 million in taxes and other debts owed by the estate.” In the end the theater was sold to Fulton Halsey Development Group for $2.1 million at the end of February–a sum that the family says will go entirely to cover debts. Though the developer would not comment, Rev. Boykin confirmed that the building would not remain a theater.

New Fate for Bed-Stuy’s Slave Theater [NY Daily News]
Slave Theater Auction Cancelled; Building in Contract? [Brownstoner]
Nonprofit Turns to Kickstarter to Buy Slave Theater [Brownstoner]
Foreclosure Auction Set for Slave Theater [Brownstoner]
Slave Theater Vacated, but Questions of Ownership Linger [Brownstoner]
Bed Stuy’s Slave Theater Still Looking for Buyer [Brownstoner] GMAP

Photo: Hobo Matt

10 Comment

  • how sad…..once a hub for civil rights activists now becoming condos…..

  • I remember seeing a Pam Grier flick – “The Arena” – back in the 1974 when it was an operating movie theater. Those were the days.

  • Sometimes I really hate real estate developers. I’m also not happy with city functionaries that don’t make it easy for cultural groups to get breaks on buildings like this. Bed Stuy could have done well with this site as a theater and event space, run by a non-profit. A viable city is not just housing, it’s also amenities and quality of life, and the presence of a well-run theater here would have done wonders for the block. One need only look at the BAM area to see what that could look like. Culture draws audiences, which draws and creates business, which brings jobs, which makes for a better community. What do condos do? Provide high rise homes for those who can afford to shop and dine in other neighborhoods.

    On top of that, whether you like the concept of a “Slave Theater” or not, Judge Phillips made an important contribution to the cultural life of Bed Stuy during a period when cultural identity, the Black Power movement, and a sense of self-determination were important to a community that had been marginalized and ignored by the city powers that be. I personally don’t agree with everything that he said, or everyone who spoke or organized here, but I can’t deny its importance. His efforts should be worth more than a bronze plaque in the lobby.

    • this seems like overall craziness with the owners and tenants. if the owner wanted to preserve the space he could have made more of an effort to unload it to a non profit, of which there are many, and these non profits do receive incentives through tax breaks, etc. sounds like boykin just wanted to unload it. while i’m not always a fan of developers, you can’t blame them for doing their job. boykin should have done more to preserve this place since it is such an important and historical landmark. the decision ultimately came down to boykin and family.

      • True, except that the back taxes were so high, what were they supposed to do? If the city had come in and forgiven some or all of the taxes, especially since the circumstances in which the taxes were run up were specious, at best, then perhaps Boykin, who lives in Ohio, I believe, may have been more inclined to sell to a non-profit.

        This was just a huge mess, and the community lost out.

  • Even despite the history, since sadly tons of places of various historical note are demolished all the time (eg the theater turned church on bedford & lincoln in crown hts), the biggest loss to this neighborhood right now was the oppty of a theater bringing the arts to kids and adults there.