Fort Greene

Landmarks Preservation Commission okays MoCADA sculpture garden in Fort Greene

February 5, 2019 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Take it outside.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts the go-ahead Tuesday to create a sculpture garden on a Fort Greene lot.

The site, which has been vacant for several decades, is located at 48 Lafayette Ave. on the corner of Fort Greene Place.

“The exhibitions will highlight the beautiful culture of the African diaspora,” MoCADA board member Randall Sawyer told the Brooklyn Eagle before the commission’s unanimous vote, which was held at the preservation agency’s lower Manhattan headquarters.  

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During a hearing before the vote, Sawyer told commissioners that MoCADA will partner with artists and rotate the sculptures that are shown at the site, just like its indoor museum has rotating exhibitions.

The schedule for opening the sculpture garden to the public will probably be similar to its indoor museum’s hours, Sawyer told commissioners.

MoCADA’s indoor space at 80 Hanson Place in Fort Greene is open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon until 8 p.m. at the latest.

There are apartment towers and brownstones in the neighborhood surrounding the MoCADA sculpture garden site.

Site purchase planned

Before the hearing, Sawyer told the Eagle that MoCADA plans to buy the site where it will build the sculpture garden.

He declined to comment when asked what price the museum expects to pay for the lot, which is 20 feet wide and 85 feet long.  

The lot’s owner is A. Randolph Haig Day Care Center Inc., which acquired it in 1974, city Finance Department records indicate.

The same entity has owned the building next door at 38 Lafayette Ave. since 1974, according to Finance Department records. The building houses the Hanson Place Seventh-Day Adventist School.

Between 1958 and 1964, A. Randolph Haig was the senior pastor of the Hanson Place Seventh-Day Adventist Church, according to the church’s website. The church is located at 88 Hanson Place.

MoCADA is building the sculpture garden as part of an effort to expand its “footprint” over the next few years, Sawyer told the Eagle.

“We’ve always been known as ‘the museum without walls,’” Sawyer told the Eagle.

For instance, MoCADA presents off-site events such as the Soul of Brooklyn Festival, which consists of borough-wide performances, film screenings and street fairs. And MoCADA presents an off-site film festival for children called KIDflix and has an Artists-in-Schools program, he said.

Indoor museum will move

As part of its expansion, MoCADA will move its indoor museum to 300 Ashland Place, which Two Trees Management developed on a former urban-renewal site.

Sawyer said he doesn’t know when MoCADA will relocate.

The mixed-use Fort Greene building, whose facade is made of aluminum composite, has apartments on its upper floors and an Apple store, a Whole Foods market and space for cultural facilities on its lower floors.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has a say in what’s built on the vacant lot at 48 Lafayette Ave. because it’s located in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District.

The site is just up the street from BAM’s Peter Jay Sharp Building and across from BAM Park, which is under renovation.

Before the vote, Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy praised the sculpture-garden plan and said it will make good use of a property that has been “an eyesore for quite some time.”

MoCADA plans to create a sculpture garden on this vacant Fort Greene lot.

This is MoCADA’s 20th anniversary

Specifically, the commissioners approved the replacement of a chain-link fence with a six-foot-high, black iron fence and the installation of a new asphalt surface on the property and new electrical outlets.

Architecture + Construction PLLC designed the new fence.

MoCADA is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene) founded MoCADA in 1999 before she moved into politics. She is a former executive director of the museum.

The concept of creating a museum devoted to African diasporan arts came from the thesis she’d written for a master’s degree in visual arts administration at New York University.

Cumbo was first elected to the City Council in 2013 and reelected in 2017.

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