In the pioneer spirit of barn-raising, The Black Lady
Theatre at 750 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn is being renovated. Leading the
extensive rehabilitation are Clarence Jr. 2X and Omar Hardy, the father and son
team who dedicate themselves to realizing the wishes of the deceased Supreme
Court Judge John L. Phillips.
The theater encompasses much of the 5,325 s.f. lot. The 500-seat
theater space is located in the basement where carpenters have recently
installed a new wooden stage. The balcony and lobby are on the first floor and
the conference area is on the second floor. Omar Hardy explained “the plan is to
build two additional floors. The roof will hold a garden and an event space.”
This project comes together through a friends-helping-friends
construction process. Mark “The Builder” Douglas is the Construction Manager.
Douglas is a licensed and insured electrical contractor who secures the
subcontractors. Douglas explains, “The objective is to uplift our people to be
self-sufficient. Professionalism, being on time, and qualified are essential.”
Douglas brought on Sheldon Douglas who is a Carpenter and CSGN Contracting’s Johnny
E. Robayo, a glass and façade contractor. It is Robayo’s installation of the
glass front that achieves the visual impact of the rebirth of “The Black Lady”.
Given the low level of financing, the team has relied
heavily on volunteer labor. For example, Omar’s younger brothers Devon and
Isaiah Howard do “soup to nuts…from site preparation to finishing.”
The marketing firm Open House New York promoted the grand
re-opening weekend October 15-16, 2016 free of charge. Standing in front of the
gleaming glass doors that reveal many murals in the lobby, Mark Douglas
estimates the work will be completed by December 2016. To mark this milestone,
the Hardys and Douglas are in preliminary discussion with the producer of “Oz
Comes to Brooklyn”. Douglas gives the last Sunday in December as the tentative performance
“I was born for this task and my father always wanted to do
business with his family,” muses Omar Hardy. He believes getting to this point
where the public can see the theater is coming back to life is due to
“remaining on our square and staying true to the mission.”
The complete development team includes Clarence Jr. 2X
Hardy, Omar Hardy, the Administrator Christie Williams, the Construction
Manager Mark Douglas, and Byron Wilson. Wilson does not state his title.
Rather, Wilson explains his plan to “establish renewable energy technologies
that take the premises off the grid.” Wilson estimates the cost amounting to
Further, Wilson intends to use smart building procedures. He
plans to set up solar canopies and an aquaponic greenhouse that grows food.
Wilson asserts, “This will be a farm-to-table operation where we sell to local
bodegas. The acquaponic greenhouse uses the waste of Tilapia fish. The fish
itself will not be sold for consumption.”
Between April and October 2016, the team has accomplished
clearing the theater of rubbish. “We’ve filled 20 containers with trash. We
financed the carting company’s services through fundraisers. One hundred bags
of rubbish were picked up by the NYC Sanitation Department, explains Hardy.
This reporter had a sit-down interview with Omar Hardy
October 27, 2016. In preparation of the meeting, records within NYC Finance
Department, Building Department and the Environmental Protection Department on
the premises were reviewed.
Q: Has your
organization contacted Brooklyn Community District Office no. 8 to request to
make a presentation before the community or to just leave event notices at
community board meetings?
Information drop off would be done through Zulika Bumpus (another team
member). I’m not sure whether the event
notice was left at the district office or at a general meeting. I recognize
that I should present to the community what is happening at The Black Lady
Note: Zulika Bumpus was contacted by telephone and email
October 27, 2016 to inquire about outreach to local high schools, houses of
worship, and Brooklyn Community District Office no. 8. Bumpus explained on the
telephone that she was leaving for an event and has not answered the email.
Q: Have you
contacted any local houses of worship to notify them about the rehabilitation
occurring at the theater?
Hardy: We haven’t
had contact with the local houses of worship. As far as having them know about
the rehab, No. We’ve reached out to individuals, organizations, and anyone who
I believe who should know. I’ve been thinking in terms of after the
construction is completed and the place is ready for rental.
In all, the Q and A session was driven by 13 questions. It
was revealed the development team’s community outreach was limited due to the
decision to postpone community outreach until after the construction is
complete. They have not communicated with Crown Heights North Association
(CHNA). This organization has a successful track record of historic landmark
district designation. Given the artistic and historic value of this theater, developing
a strategic alliance with CHNA would be prudent. From April 2016 to October
2016, the work consisted of site preparation, painting, glass front
installation, and floor tiling. Hardy
could not say which floor would be 75% complete by December 31, 2016.
The types of trades that have been on site, at any given
time include security (provided by a private company and internal surveillance),
electricians, carpenters, and a plumber.
New York City agency research uncovered two critical
conditions: 750 Nostrand Avenue block 1240 lot 38 was part of an assignment of
a tax lien, document date April 30, 2016, where Party 1 is Bank of New York
Mellon and Party 2 Bank of New York Mellon. A Tax Lien Sale Certificate was
entered into record August 10, 2016. Mr. Hardy acknowledges “the tax issue
needs to be handled. It is part of the reason for his focus on completing key
“Opening the doors to the community is critical [because] it
permits us offering programs to the community that generate revenue,” may be a
guiding mantra that Omar Hardy keeps in the forefront of his mind. In view of
the in rem action, it behooves this committed team to direct its legal counsel
to respond to the property vesting action.