Slave Theater could be sold to pay judge’s ‘debts’

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Slave Theater — a half-century-old Bedford-Stuyvesant institution where generations of kids saw their first movies and Al Sharpton held rallies — may soon be put up for sale, thanks to the county’s epic mismanagement of former Civil Court Judge John Phillips’s dwindling estate.

Phillips — placed in the care of court-appointed guardians in 2001, ostensibly to protect his considerable assets — now owes more than $1 million in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, according to Phillips’s latest guardian, John Cahill. Cahill now intends to sell as many of Phillips’s three remaining properties to repay the government. He said a sale of the Slave Theater would be a last recourse.

Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbors say the loss of the Slave Theater — which the local Community Board recommended be landmarked in June — would be a tragedy.

“It’s one of the neighborhood’s institutio­ns,” said Councilman Al Vann (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant), who, as a boy, watched black-and-white films there.

Hardy Joe Long, owner of Birdel’s Records and president of the Fulton–Nostrand United Merchants Association, agreed.

“It should have landmarked status, because of the mere longevity it’s been in the community,” said Long, who has frequented the theater, on Fulton Street and Bedford Avenue, since he began watching films there in the 1960s and ’70s.

Phillips bought the property, then called the Regal Theater, in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it became home to black pride rallies led by Alton Maddox and Sharpton.

“It was a stronghold where we could come together and voice our opinions,” said Dee Woodburn, a Phillips supporter. “It’s very significant to the black community.”

Since 1998, it has been shuttered. Phillips reportedly had stopped paying taxes on the property even before he was declared incompetent and his estate turned over to court-appointed guardians. Those guardians let the theater fall into further disrepair and some pillaged the rest of Phillips’s estate.

This whole sad saga might never have been written had the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes not initiated competency hearings in 2001. Critics say Hynes was simply trying to block Phillips, who had threatened to run against him. Hynes has consistently denied such allegations.

But in recent years, Phillips’s supporters have increasingly focused their ire on Pesce, who, among other alleged misdeeds, appointed Cahill’s predecessor, Emani Taylor, to oversee Phillips’s affairs. Hynes is now investigating charges that Taylor absconded with $187,000 from Phillips’s bank accounts.

Now, the Slave may have entered its final chapter.

In August, Cahill told Administrative Judge Michael Pesce that prior guardians had failed to file tax returns for Phillips. Meanwhile, Phillips’s once sizeable estate — at the time of his competency hearing, he owned at least 10 properties in Bedford-Stuyvesant — has dwindled to just three.

In a June 20, 2007 sealed court document, another court-appointed lawyer, Seth Coen, confirmed Cahill’s findings.

“No tax returns were filed [during] the Interim Guardian’s tenure,” wrote Coen. “This will undoubtedly result in interest and penalties being assessed to the detriment of [Phillips’s] estate.”

The IRS said it could not comment on the issue. Pesce did not respond to a request for comment. But Phillips was irate.

“For years now, a lot of people have been trying to steal things from me and lying to me,” said Phillips, 84, who now lives in a Park Slope retirement home.

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

marta fernandez says:
how was this allowed to happen?
Nov. 19, 2007, 2:04 pm
Vincent Nunes from Bedford-Stuyvesant says:
The IRS should have a very simple response to this matter - The Honorable Judge John Phillips cannot be held responsible for the non-payment of taxes while unable to access his finances, due to the malfeasance of Brooklyn Machine District Attorney Charles "Joe" Hynes. The parties responsible for the non-payment of any taxes accrued would be Emani Taylor, et. al., who failed to perform their job functions properly.

They cannot be made to profit from this disenfranchisement of a loved Brooklyn icon.

Save the SLAVE!!!
Dec. 27, 2007, 11:43 pm
Stephanie Reeder from Bedford Stuyvesant says:
Although my Brooklyn experience began in Fort Green then later Crown Heights, The Slave theatre represents itself as an African-American relic. It behooves me,with such sizable profits earned by THE RESTORATION PLAZA, a previous dairy warehouse, generous donations were not made in an effort to restore this theatre to operational capacity.

I'm certain that Mr.Phillips would prefer the theatre be restored as opposed to being the current eye-sore of Fulton Street.
Seeing the restoration of THE LINCOLN THEATRE, in Washington D.C. the potential is limitless.

Here is an opportunity to set a precedent for the future based on historic films of the past.

If noone has the opportunity to be introduced to Spencer Michelle or the works of Oscar Micheaux,and others, how do we expect their talents to be embraced in the future?
Feb. 17, 2008, 6:22 pm
A Kenan from Bed Stuy says:
This is a real Ghetto Tragedy and who benefits from this ? The family doesnt have the knowledge or understanding on how to properly care for the mans estate and he loses most of it to taxes and predatory appointed so called guardians. I have witnessed plenty of Blacks in Bed Stuy lose properties and life savings in some of the same manners , and at the end of the day who cares? And no one in the community could come up with a plan to Save The Slave ? What about the Brooklyn Restoration or Carver Bank? What is going on ? This is a Historic Landmark!!! It could be turned into something more than some condos of gentrification! I am from Fulton between Bedford and Nostrand and I remember when the Theatre was the"Regent"
It should be preserved as a Landmark Building !
March 1, 2008, 1:18 am
Stelean Smith-Garbey from Prospect Heights says:
Hello My name is Stelean Smith-Garbey; CEO/Founder of National Artist Development Academy, Inc. a 501(c)3 tax exempt not-for profit performing arts organization. The organization was established in 2002 retrospect to a vision that I had from God. The slave theater appeared in the dream. I have inquired about the slave theater for the past 4 years but was unable to receive adequate information. I am a 37 year old African American woman who has a divine passion to support and encourage children, youth, and adults within the urban community and abroad in the pursuit of there God given talents and dreams. Please give me the opportunity. I am willing to do whatever it takes (God's Will) to pursue this dream.
Occupation: Social Worker HRA Welfare to work for 17 years.
Please contact me at: 1(718) 233-6817 Direct number @ work
Address: 364 Lincoln Place Brooklyn, NY 11238
Apt 5F.
April 22, 2008, 2:39 pm
Camille Johnson from Bed-Stuy says:
Crucial Arts Productions, Inc., ( is stepping up to the plate. They're a performing and visual arts 501(c)(3)non-profit organization.

They've started a Facebook Cause to raise money. Copy and past this link if you're interested.
May 20, 2009, 8:49 am
THE CHIEF, THE REDEEMER from Bed-Stuy says:
Please Contact "THE SLAVE" 717-581-7234

June 26, 2010, 8:58 pm
milton bolton from brownville says:
why would thank the irs should be pay any money when another judege tooke over all of his home. ask you may know mr.phillips was hi jack out of his home
and put in another person home lock away untill one
or his friend went and made them to let him out
Aug. 9, 2010, 1:14 pm
PoetCera from Bushwick/Bed-Stuy says:
This sounds like a job for P. Diddy, Jay Z, etc... Why not get all the music and movie stars possible, together for a benefit. I mean together they could buy this property and donate it to the community and still have change left over. I'm just saying though... Worth a try, No?
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:59 am
Elbert Hassan Moori from East New York says:
Hypocrical thieves Rev. Boykins, Jewish & crackers are waiting like buzzards to profit from this wrongful deed! May Allah punish them in HELL for their wrongful deed!
Aug. 2, 2012, 10:39 am
Elbert Hassan Moori from East New York says:
Just as I said in 2012; in 2014 they are still waiting for someone to die or something in the wicked courts to rule in their favor so they can steal the property.
June 9, 2014, 5:49 am

Comments closed.

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