Split Decision: LPC Landmarks Part of Angel Guardian Home


In a split decision, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted this week to landmark the main building of a piece of Dyker Heights ancestry, namely the Angel Guardian Home on 12th Avenue between 63 and 64 Streets.

While the LPC vote was unanimous, neighbors, civic leaders and electeds have been split on whether to landmark more of the four-building site, with several feeling that at least two of the buildings should have been landmarked. It will be the first building to be individually landmarked in the neighborhood.

The Angel Guardian Home is architecturally significant and reflects the importance given to social services in the Progressive Era, and of the role the Sisters of Mercy convent have played in Brooklyn for over a century, said the LPC. The Sisters of Mercy was originally founded in Ireland and emigrated to the U.S. SOM owned the land the orphanage was built on back in 1880. The buildings were designed in 1897 by George H. Streeton in the renaissance revival, beaux arts style with a raised lawn surrounded by a stone wall. By 1899, the orphanage was founded, and operated into the late 1970s.

The red-brick landmarked main building was the first built, said LPC, and has remained the public face of the property as the rest of the block was developed. Other buildings are considered secondary, but no less worthy of being landmarked stressed the bevy of Landmarks Commissioners in the latest public hearing on November 10.

Photo from Angel Guardian Facebook page.

“This is clearly a remarkable building, a beautiful building, and it’s important that we consider designating it,” said Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Michael Goldblum. “I also want to say that while I totally support the designation, this is one of a series of designations where because of the nature of the process, we are kind of trapped. One has to sometimes accept half a loaf.” 

Landmarks Preservation Commission Vice Chair Frederick Bland added to that sentiment saying, “I think we’re getting at least three-fourths, maybe seven-eighths of a loaf by this designation. But, it still pains me a bit to think that our vote today will condemn a very fine building.”  

LPC said that multiple uses, such as a public school and ‘affordable housing,’ are intended for the rest of the property in keeping with the “deed restrictions” placed on the sale by the Sisters of Mercy. LPC said the owner and developer, Scott Barone, has entered into an agreement with them to control some of the design for adjacent buildings and spaces. It will be kept “low-scale” and match the main building.

Justin Brannan
City Council Member Justin Brannan
State Senator Andrew Gounardes
State Senator Andrew Gounardes

The community has criticized stakeholders in the property, like Barone and city officials Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, parts of Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach) and State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park), for not including community input and only landmarking one building out of the three on the historical site. 

Fran Vella-Marrone is President of the Dyker Heights Civic Association as well as the Brooklyn Conservative Party, and a long-time supporter of fully landmarking both the orphanage and convent said she had mixed feelings on the landmarking.

“I mean I’m happy to the extent that the main building was landmarked. It’s the first one in Dyker Heights,” said Vella-Marrone, “The bad thing is that from the beginning we wanted the entire location landmarked and intact. And, it was a long and arduous situation with us trying to bring this to the forefront.”

Brannan said although the Angel Guardian Home sits just outside the borders of his council district, preserving this building has been one of his top priorities since taking office.

“I thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission and local community activists for their tireless work in helping make this day a reality. I’m very proud to see that Dyker Heights will now have its first officially landmarked building. This special designation will ensure that neighbors and all New Yorkers will be able to cherish this majestic and historic building in its original state for generations to come,” said Brannan.