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

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

Movies

Review: 'A Most Wanted Man' works better when…

In one of his last roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman headlines the John Le Carre adaptation of "A Most Wanted Man," about the pursuit of a Chechen refugee.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, July 22: 'Royal Pains,'…

Catch a new episode of "Royal Pains" where Hank has to help out a housesitter.

Entertainment

'Bachelorette' recap: Episode 10, 'Men Tell All'

Why does the #MenTellAll episode exist? Because they don’t, and it shouldn’t. Is it a lazy vehicle to sell more ad space? Is it to…

Television

Olivia Williams explains the ins and outs of…

Olivia Williams plays a botanist beginning to suspect her physicist husband's work on the Manhattan Project might be ominous in WGN America's "Manhattan."

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…