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Bed-Stuy Mansion's Caretakers Bow Out After Bread Love Fire

 Gather Brooklyn, the group that managed the 375 Stuyvesant Mansion, will leave at the end of the month.
Caretakers Leaving Bed-Stuy Mansion After Suspicious Fire
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The caretakers of a Bed-Stuy mansion damaged in a fire last month will no longer manage the space, leaving the future uncertain for businesses and community groups working there.

Gather Brooklyn, which managed the 375 Stuyvesant Ave. mansion, and a program called Freebrook Spaces, which provided space for businesses and groups inside the building, will transition out of those roles at the end of the month, representatives said.

"We are so grateful for the beautifully-diverse and dynamic people who have shared their time, creativity and energy," read an email from Gather Brooklyn to supporters. "As a community space initiative, Freebrook Spaces will be on hold until further notice."

For some, the program was a way to meet for little-to-no cost. Organizations that couldn't afford rent would often trade services for space.

For example, a Capoeira class called Angoleiros do Brooklyn, would perform carpentry work on the building in return for a regular night to teach, trainer Taganyahu Swaby said.

"It was really great for us because we're a very small capoeira group," Swaby said. "We've never been able to really afford a place in the city and we've always had difficulty maintaining a space in Brooklyn."

Now, Swaby's future is up in the air.

"I'm really not sure what's going to happen, but I have a feeling that it's over," he said.

The fire started early on the morning of May 14 inside Bread Love, a popular Bed-Stuy cafe and bakery that used space in the building's rear stable. It destroyed the shop before spreading to the main building, according to the FDNY and building sources.

The fire came after two straight days of break-ins at the shop, leading owners Lloyd and Hillary Porter to believe it was suspicious.

The FDNY investigation is ongoing, a spokesman said.

Over the past few weeks, the Porters reached out to community members to help clean out the space, which they said was "almost totally gutted."

The husband-and-wife team said they would continue selling coffee and pastries at the Saturday Lewis Avenue flea market, and were toying with the idea of a neighborhood pop-up shop.

While a timeline for reopening is still unclear, Porter said they were hard at work trying to reopen the shop— wherever it might be.

"It looks like we may have to relocate," Porter said. "The damage was so severe that we might not be able to do it again in that space."

Other businesses haven't yet given up hope on remaining and are hoping to work with the building's owner, Barry Shepherd, to stay at the mansion.

"We're going to try to stay there," said Chanel Porchia, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services. "We like the community and we like the space. It's just been a challenge."