It looks like curtains for this theater, but the drama isn’t over yet.
The new owner of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Slave Theater plans to demolish the historic building, but a father-son duo who have long claimed to be the property’s rightful proprietors say they will fight to keep it standing until the wrecking ball swings.
Clarence Hardy — a friend of the Slave’s former owner, the late judge John Phillips — staged a dramatic protest from the theater’s second-floor marquee last Friday, days after developer Jacob Hamway filed an application to demolish the Fulton Street building on Dec. 2. And his son says they’ll be back this Saturday to rally again.
“As Mr. Phillips said, we never quit a fight or die a loser,” said Omar Hardy, whose 81-year-old dad’s protest led police to close off Fulton Street as he stood atop the theater.
Clarence Hardy worked with Phillips after the former Brooklyn Civil Court judge — known as the “kung fu judge” — bought the building once known as the Regal Theater in 1984 and turned it into a hub for civil rights activity where Al Sharpton regularly held court.
The theater fell into disrepair after then-District Attorney Charles Hynes had Hardy declared “mentally incompetent” and confined to a nursing home, and when Phillips died in 2008 — leaving no will — the property was passed on to his nephew Samuel Boykin.
The Hardeys unsuccessfully challenged Boykin’s right to the theater in court, claiming they bought the building from Phillips prior to his death and that Boykin’s deed is fraudulent, but continued living — squatting, Boykin says — in the dilapidated theater for several years.
Boykin claims he wanted to sell the building to a community group, but the Hardeys’ refusal to leave thwarted his efforts, so he instead sold to developer Yossi Ariel in 2013 — who in turn sold it and two neighboring properties to Hamway for $18.5 million.
Boykin said it is a shame the theater will disappear, but his sale was necessary and legal.
“We are saddened by the fact that the building will not remain a theater and in community service,” he said. “My family is extremely saddened by that, but at this point there’s nothing we can do.”
Hamway has not filed building permits, but current zoning would allow him to build residential tower of up to around 10 stories with retail or a community facility on the ground floor.
But the Hardeys aren’t bowing out yet. In addition to the planned protest on Saturday, they are demanding District Attorney Ken Thompson — who unseated Hynes in 2013 — rescind the deed and save the Slave.
The family launched an online petition directed at Thompson following the latest sale that has garnered 115 digital John Hancocks so far.