Accident clears way for Slave Theater sale– Owner says property could become major retail outlet

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A recent accident at the historic Slave Theater on Fulton Street, in which nobody was seriously hurt, has turned into a blessing for its owner, who plans on selling it.

Rev. Samuel Boykin, the court-appointed administrator for the late Judge John L. Phillips who owned the theater, said the city’s Department of Buildings posted a vacate order on the theater following the accident forcing out its two alleged squatters.

“We won’t have any problems selling the Slave Theater now that it’s empty,” said Boykin. “Potential buyers weren’t able to see the whole building and wanted to know when it would be emptied out.”

The accident occurred on Saturday, Feb. 4 when alleged squatter Clarence Hardy rented the first floor out for a party and four people were injured after the floor of the makeshift outdoor smoking area collapsed into the cellar.

The next day, the other alleged squatter, Dr. Paul Lewis, who runs the Messengers of Christ World Healing Center on the second floor, allegedly tore off the vacate order on the front door to hold services in the building.

Police were called, who allowed the church to finish the service before ushering the pastor and all the congregants out before shuttering the building again with a new lock.
Boykin, who lives in Ohio, said he has been trying to get both Hardy and the church evicted from the property for several years and spending in excess of $100,000 in doing it.

The estate first went to Brooklyn’s Surrogate Court and then to the State Supreme Court before finally being steered to the tenant/landlord court which has the jurisdiction to evict both Hardy and the church, he said.

Hardy responded that the party was merely a gathering of white people who came out on a Saturday night to help the Slave Theater.
“The building is only locked up until the building inspector has a look and then we expect to be back in there,” Hardy said.

But Boykin said he is already speaking to one church and three different organizations about selling the building and expects it to fetch about $3 million and be in contract with a buyer within 60 days.
Judge Phillips, a longtime Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, bought the Slave Theater in 1982 originally to screen films. Soon, it became a meeting place for activists like the Reverend Al Sharpton, Attorney Alton Maddox and Scholar Amos Wilson.

Boykin said the estate owes about $2 million in back taxes on the property and the vacant lot behind it on Herkimer Street.
Among those interested are major retailers and the property is zoned to go up to 10 stories, he said.

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