Wrought Iron Gate Thefts Spread

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You’ve heard of Watergate, but in Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, there is a new scandal dubbed “Iron Gate” – and speculation is growing that it may have something to do with gentrification.
Several people in the metal business say that the recent spate of wrought iron gates stolen from the front of brownstones is not because of the paltry (12 cents a pound) price of scrap iron, but because many new homeowners in the neighborhood are in the market for the refinished antique gates at bargain prices.

We’ve been told that thieves take the gates because dealers are buying gates from these guys and that if they didn’t, there would not be a problem.

Longtime Bed-Stuy resident and brownstoner Irving Boyce-El, owner of Custom Metal Products,  said a new antique-looking gate “is anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.” There’s also a market for the gates in Philadelphia and Baltimore where there is a similar style of housing stock, he said.

It appears that its cheaper to get a used gate, strip it down, prime it and then repaint it, for a new gate in the old style.

The speculation comes as owners of two brownstones on MacDonough Street between Lewis and Stuyvesant Avenues last week became the latest victims of the thefts. In both cases, a white van was spotted in the vicinity and could be involved.

A similar attempt was made to steal a gate on Macon Street between Lewis and Stuyvesant avenues, but the owner has chained his front gate thwarting the theft, but the attempt was captured on a video camera.

Similarly, the ornate gates were taken from brownstones in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene the past few weeks, in which a white van was also spotted suspiciously in the area.

“The real problem is the hinges they used back then,” said Boyce-El, explaining how the older gates are fairly easy to swipe because they were built with drop hinges making it easy to simply lift to unhook the gates.

Boyce-El said many of the older gates are also planted in the dirt instead of concrete.  The newer gates have solid hinges and stoppers so they’re not easy to unhook, he added.

Boyce-El said back in the 1980s, when crime was higher, thieves could put a crowbar under the original landmark gates protecting homes and lift them high enough to crawl through and gain entrance into a house to burglarize it.

Other sources in the metal business said it appears the gates are being swiped because new people in the neighborhood like the antique style and don’t currently have a gate on their property.

There are several scrap iron salvage places to fence the fences, said another source, including one in the Gowanus/Red Hook area and one in Harlem.