By Maitefa Angaza
Our Time Press revisits a story first published last spring on the deed theft last January of a deceased woman’s home (Clarice Gray) at 591 Carlton Avenue in Prospect Heights. This occurred after death of her adopted daughter Paula Sanford. In a breathtakingly egregious set of events, a false deed was filed after it was ascertained that neither Clarice nor Paula had next of kin. The home was first illegally sold for $10,000, then resold for $50,000 to realtor Yuval Golan, who promptly put it on the market for $2.5 million. For the full details, please see at www.ourtimepress.com the OTP issues of April 11th and April 25th of 2018.
A concerned neighbor, who we’ll call Sojourner, has been active along with longtime resident attorney Keith Reid, in keeping residents informed about the house. She’s not willing to sit quiet while additional theft of Black homeowners’ property takes place in her corner of Prospect Heights. As a result, neighbors on the street routinely catch one another up about the property.
“The Our Time Press article got around!” Sojourner said. “We enlarged it and made copies and posted them on lampposts. I also put them under people’s doors. We had to get as many eyes on this as possible. And I think because of the attention that brought, the house has been hard to sell.”
There are a few puzzling developments to report about 591 Carlton Street. But that’s to be expected with a house in which matricide was charged (but with no conviction), and years later the suspect’s-daughter is found dead in the same spot. Add to that a reported serial deed-theft villain searching the Caribbean for possible heirs to swindle. And complete the picture with an amateur senior-citizen sleuth and her tenacious sidekick – and you’re in mystery novel territory.
An open house was scheduled for the property not long after our initial story ran. But the police showed up and shut it down in process. And Sojourner says that back in January a neighbor informed her that the house was up for auction the following month with a price of $2.5 million.
“I came to find out that one person is said to have bid on the property,” said Sojourner. “I know how auctions operate and I’ve never been to or heard of a property auction with only one bidder. And certainly, a property in this prime area would not have just one bidder.
“Then starting about March, there were dumpsters outside the building for at least until July. It started out with a big one, then they’d diminish in size as time went on. But you could never see any work being done and we [neighbors] walk by there almost daily – no one working or bringing things out. When was it being loaded? There was stuff in the dumpsters, you could tell, although they were always covered with tarps. Now the shutters are open and when you walk past you can see clear through to the backyard.”
According to Sojourner, Keith Reid has been steady on the case, keeping the Barbados embassy up to date and making sure that anyone organizing a sale or auction of 591 Carlton is apprised of the murky legal waters they’re navigating. And if they are aware, he wants them to know that he’s aware too.
“I heard there was a “For Sale” sign on the house at the end of July,” said Sojourner “and it was then listed for $2.9 million. I walked over and saw Keith talking to the broker on the phone. He was asking who the seller was and when the open house date would be. The broker said the house would be shown by appointment only.” But the “For Sale” sign was soon not visible from the street, replaced by a summons to appear in court on October 29th to address issues with the property. The façade has been crumbling for some time and Sojourner says some of the building’s ledges appear about to fall off.
Zia O’Hara’s name is listed as the lead contact regarding the sale of 591 Carlton. Likely because the summons is prominently displayed, the “For Sale” sign is now attached to the door on the inside. When contacted about the current status of the property, O’Hara claimed not to know. This reporter responded that she’s listed as primary agent on the sale of the house. Her reply: “Who said that?” She was told that it’s on the sign attached to the house. Her reply – “Hello? Hello?” – then click, and she was gone.
The name Douglas Bowen, also of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, is listed second on the sign. He claims to have nothing to do with the proposed sale and no information about its current status. Odd, considering his reply, verbatim: “I was actually just advising somebody who is attached to the ownership of that property.”
The saga continues.