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Restoration of Black Lady Theatre Underway in Crown Heights

 Omar Hardy stands in front of a mural painted inside the Black Lady Theatre in Crown Heights, which he is trying to restore with his father, Clarence.
Omar Hardy stands in front of a mural painted inside the Black Lady Theatre in Crown Heights, which he is trying to restore with his father, Clarence.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — Behind new glass doors covered in thick construction paper, the Black Lady is getting a serious makeover.

The building at 750 Nostrand Ave., once known as the Black Lady Theatre, has been closed for years, notable only for an eye-catching mural on its facade of a woman shooting laser beams from her eyes at a besuited man.

The distinctive painting has now been removed — but temporarily, according to Omar Hardy, who is restoring the theater with his father, Clarence, the one-time partner of the building’s former owner, the late John Phillips.


Nostrand Avenue. #crownheights #Brooklyn

A photo posted by Jon Keegan (@jonkeegan) on

The above mural hung outside the Black Lady Theatre at 750 Nostrand Ave. until its recent restoration.

Phillips, a Brooklyn judge who died in 2008, also owned the famous and embattled Slave Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant — the “sister site” to the Black Lady, Hardy said — which has been at the center of a fight, led oftentimes by the Hardys, over the preservation and ownership of the iconic Fulton Street theater.

That dispute is still ongoing, the younger Hardy said as he coordinated contractors on Nostrand Avenue on Tuesday. But at the Black Lady, the pair is confident they have the legal right to the building and are trying to reopen the theater, sometimes referred to as the “Slave II,” as quickly as possible.

“We are, and have been, the rightful owners of the property,” he said. “We’re continuing on with our mission … putting the theater right back in the community as Judge Phillips instructed.”

That includes space for performances (“the community can expect live theater, plays, screenings,” Hardy said) as well as youth programming, a boxing gym and rooftop garden.

Large glass doors have been installed on the theater at 750 Nostrand Ave. this week. (Photo credit: DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith)

The city approved permits for the work at 750 Nostrand Ave. in September with Clarence Hardy listed as the building owner, according to public records. But the building’s deed itself belies a more murky history; currently, the owner is listed as John Phillips — according to a deed filed three years after his death by Frank Racano, an attorney hired by a nephew of Phillips to execute his estate, who was indicted in May for stealing half a million dollars from the late judge.

This weekend, residents can see the progression of the work at the Crown Heights theater as part of Open House New York, a citywide event that opens unusual, historic and notable buildings to visitors for tours. It will be the first time the Black Lady will be open to the public in 20 years, Hardy said.

“[It’s] a brief feature presentation of what’s to come,” he said.

The Black Lady Theatre will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit the Open House New York event page.