“We’re fighting all the gentrification, the blatant fraud that’s in your face, the real estate scam that’s going on,” said Omar Hardy of the organization Children of Slaves and Patriots. “They’re trying to steal our cultural institutions.”
The group wants Thompson to grant a temporary injunction on the property to halt any or all potential construction, and want the sale vacated and the theater returned as a community cultural center.
Hardy and others charge that in 2011 the theater was signed into the name of a dead man and subsequently sold to a development group. At the rally, they attempted to get passersby to sign a petition to stop the potential demolition of the building.
In November of last year, the theater was sold to Industrie Capital as part of an $18.5 million real estate portfolio.
The group contends that three years after the death of Judge John Phillips – the founder of the institution – the deed was transferred from a real estate holding that Phillips set up back into his name, then to Fulton Halsey Development Group by Reverend Samuel Boykin, the executor of his estate.
Hardy, who was at the theater with his father Clarence Hardy, said the January 15th demonstration was carrying on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
"We are teaming up, the awareness is being raised,” Hardy said. “It’s imperative that the community knows what the heck is going on.”
The elder Hardy claims that the theater legally belongs to him, but a judge ruled that Phillips was not in the right state of mind when he transferred the property to him. Hardy has been arrested six times for trespassing at the Fulton Street site, according to the New York Times.
Phillips acquired what was then known as the Regal Theater in 1984 and changed the name. Some of the top African-American scholars and artists in the city were known to congregate there, but it has been in disrepair and shuttered for nearly a decade.
It was a gathering place and an epicenter of action for black leaders in the city following the racially fueled attacks in Howard Beach in 1987.
Hardy said the impropriety that occurred during the alleged sale of the property is the biggest problem here, not simply that gentrification is destroying landmarks like the theater.
“The gentrification is one thing, but to be exercising these fraudulent tactics, a dead man cannot buy property nor a dead man cannot sell and that’s what’s going on here,” Hardy said.