Neighbors heartbroken by demolition of 120-year-old mansion in Bed-Stuy

NEW YORK – Neighbors in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, are heartbroken after demolition work started on an historic mansion they were trying to get landmarked.

CBS2’s Hannah Kilger visited 441 Willoughby Ave. to find out how their hopes to save the building were reduced to rubble.

The 120-year-old mansion has been a mysterious, but welcome sight for many in Bed-Stuy. Michael Williams has lived in the neighborhood his whole life.

“For them to tear it down, it’s awful,” Williams said.

The French gothic-inspired mansion was built for successful German grocer Jacob Dangler, completed in 1902. For decades, it served as a masonic lodge.

But Wednesday, residents who have been trying to prevent its destruction spotted demolition workers on the property. Thursday, CBS2’s cameras arrived as parts of the turret and roof were ripped away.

“Up until the pandemic, it was a rentable venue. It was rented every weekend,” said Lauren Cawdrey, of the the Willoughby Nostrand Marcy Block Association.

Neighbors who have been working for months to get the building landmarked stood outside in the sweltering heat, trying to do whatever they can to delay the work.

“I was going laundry right here, and I saw them taking out, like, an 18th century loom and throwing it in the garbage truck,” said neighbor Jules Bartkowski.

Many pointed out Tomer Erlich as the developer. While signs outside the site say it is still owned by the masonic lodge that’s been there for decades, Department of Building permits still show him as the owner.

Kliger tried to ask Erlich for comment.

“No,” he said. “There’s no point.”

“People in this community feel strongly about this. Would you at least respond to their concerns?” Kliger asked.

“The building department issued a permit, we’re doing our job, and that’s it,” he said.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office told CBS2 in a statement, in part: “As the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered this building for potential designation as a landmark, the developer was able to legally obtain demolition permits. We will continue listening to and working with the community.”

Some elected officials have been trying to obtain a stop-work order.

“We feel like they should at least give a yes or no to this being a landmark before this demolition happens,” said New York State Senator Jabari Brisport.

Sources with the city say the DOB would only issue such an order if inspectors saw dangerous conditions on the site. CBS2 crews saw DOB workers on the scene, but the demolition continued a couple hours later.

“To see it so carelessly destroyed is heartbreaking,” said neighbor Molly Salas.

While our cameras were rolling, 12 decades of history was reduced to rubble in one day.

Under the landmarks law, a demolition permit issued by the DOB prior to landmark designation is valid and the work can continue.

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