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Former Bed-Stuy Theater Owners Try to 'Save the Slave'

 Clarence and Omar Hardu have hired a new attorney to try and keep the Slave Theater.
Clarence and Omar Hardu have hired a new attorney to try and keep the Slave Theater.
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DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The former owners of an historic Bed-Stuy theater are fighting to reclaim the building — and asking the community for support.

Clarence Hardy, Jr. and son Omar Hardy have launched an online petition and a crowdfunding website to save the Slave Theater, a historic theater at 1215 Fulton St. that hosted civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton in addition to putting on plays and concerts in the 1980s and 1990s.

Despite no longer owning the building, the Hardys are still squatting at the Slave, showing up daily to make repairs and putting their own locks on the doors.

"It's a mission, man," the younger Hardy said. "We're just letting everybody know we're not giving up, not giving in."

The Slave Theater was co-owned by the older Hardy and Judge John Phillips until 2001, when the former civil court judge was declared mentally incompetent and Hardy took sole control of the property.

After Phillips' death in 2008, administrators of his estate wrested control of the building. After a lengthy court battle with Hardy that was ultimately dismissed last year, administrators sold the theater to a development group in August for $2.1 million, according to city housing records.

Now the Hardys said they've hired a new attorney and plan to return to court. They say a will that was allegedly signed by Phillips makes the deal between his estate and the developer, Fulton Halsey Developer Group, null and void.

"You've got people trying to steal the property," Omar Hardy said. "They have no standing, no claim at all."

In addition to the legal issues, the Hardys are unable to open the theater's doors to the public because of a vacate order that was issued after a partial building collapse in 2012, according to Buildings Department records.

The father and son last week launched the crowdfunding website to pay for repairs, but had yet to receive any donations as of Wednesday morning. The online petition, also launched last week, had 85 signatures as of Wednesday morning, and the Hardys claim that a paper petition has more than 800 signatures.

Complicating the situation further is a new theater company that's been in talks with Fulton Halsey to take over the space since August. Representatives from the New Brooklyn Theater, who have already begun performances at other venues, say they've tried to work with the Hardys to no avail.

A lawyer representing Fulton Halsey did not return a request for comment.