Endangered Angel: local artist tries to salvage his iconic home

81-year-old artist Arthur Wood is being evicted this Friday from the iconic Clinton Hill home he built over three decades ago. (Credit: Danielle Tcholakian.)
81-year-old artist Arthur Wood is being evicted this Friday from the iconic Clinton Hill home he built over three decades ago. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian.

After three decades and several legal battles, the iconic Broken Angel House may have its wings clipped for good.

Long-time owner Arthur Wood, who built the house with his wife, will be evicted this Friday, March 15.

“It’s very poetic, March 15th is the Ides of March,” Wood quipped, as his son Christopher loaded up a U-Haul truck with his artwork and valued possessions last Friday.

Wood and his wife Cynthia moved into the building at 4 Downing Street in 1979, and lived there for over 30 years before her death from cancer in 2010.

Wood, now 81 years old, blames lawsuits with the city for his wife’s death.

“They dragged us out of this house because of a $100 fine,” Wood declared. “They locked up our house and put us out on the street to die.”

Wood said they were declared ineligible for the city’s shelter system because they technically owned property, even though they were barred from living there.

The trouble apparently started with a fire in 2006 that drew the attention of the Department of Buildings. DOB reportedly determined that the upper portion of the building and the fourth floor needed to be demolished.

Arthur Wood and Christopher Wood
Watching his son load his possessions into the U-Haul, Wood said affectionately, “That’s my little boy.”
Surveying the full truck, the younger Wood joked that it looked like “a new Broken Angel might appear in Beacon, NY,” where he lives. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian.

Local City Councilmember Letitia James represented Wood in court during this process, and helped arrange the settlement to remove the parts of the structure said to be in violation of building codes.

Wood decided to partner with local developer Shahn Andersen, and they secured $4 million in funding to develop part of the property into condos, but apparently struggled to stay on schedule.

“Arthur is a very creative artist, but trying to get him to work inside the legal framework of the New York City Buildings Code and Zoning Resolution was very difficult,” Andersen said. “Many of the things he wanted us to do could not be done legally.”

The loan was declared in default around the same time as the Lehman Brothers collapse and the general tightening of credit markets. The property was foreclosed on last year.

“I still have a lot of admiration for Arthur,” Andersen insisted. “I have thought about Broken Angel a lot over the years, and when I think of Arthur and that building, I always have the same thought: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t keep it from drowning itself once it gets there.”

 

What happens now?

Councilwoman James called the building “a piece of art” and “an iconic structure in the community,” and spoke of Wood as a beloved fixture in the neighborhood.

“It’s unfortunate because he built the Broken Angel with his bare hands,” James said. “We would hope that whoever has taken over the property would work with him so that he could remain on the premises for the rest of his life.”

A recently registered LLC by the name of 4-8 Downing Purchaser bought the property for a little over $2 million this January, according to public records.

According to a spokesperson, Shane Kavanagh, “the owner is now pursuing a remedy through the proper legal process that will allow them to control the property.”

Kavanagh confirmed that “proper legal process” meant Wood’s eviction.

Arthur, Broken Angel House
81-year-old artist Arthur Wood will be evicted this Friday from the home he built over 30 years ago. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian.

The fate of the property is unclear: 4-8 Downing Purchaser LLC bought the property as an investment from the bank, and will now attempt to re-sell it.

According to the property listing, the vacant lot next to Wood’s building, located at 8 Downing Street, can be “developed” into a two-unit building, but the existing structure at 4 Downing Street can be “converted” into an eight-unit building.

CPEX Real Estate, the firm that listed the property, refused to say whether the existing structure can be demolished, or if it must remain standing to be “converted.”

 

What does the future hold for Wood?

For his part, Wood is determined to keep up his various legal battles.

“My case is still going strong,” Wood announced. “I’m gonna win it.”

He paused, then looked downward, smiling. “Maybe,” he conceded.

In fact, he prematurely filed with the Supreme Court, despite having not gone through the necessary lower courts.

“The law’s an art and in all art,  a new approach — you can try whatever you want,” Wood shrugged. “I arrived at my destination and then I figured out how to get there.”

Wood said he was assured once he had gone through all the lower courts, his appeals case would still be open and waiting.

As the younger Wood walked by carrying a visibly weighty four-foot-tall curlicued steel cross, his father’s eyes lit up.

“I made that,” he said proudly. “I’m going to give it to St. John the Divine.”

Asked where he’ll go come Friday, Wood shrugged.

“I have no idea. I was thinking of going to China.”

 

DNAinfo.com reported that neighbors will be throwing a send-off block party for Wood this Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. Broken Angel House served as the backdrop for Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, released in 2005.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

NHL

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings…

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings in Game 2

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.