The Conservancy is pleased to share progress now that a conditions survey is well underway at the United Order of Tents’ landmark Bedford-Stuyvesant headquarters. The Tents also received a $100,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, and the City granted the Tents a tax exemption.
The Tents are a secret society of African American women that dates to 1847 when two formerly enslaved women formed the benevolent society to foster community and care for Black women and children. The recent difficulties that the Brooklyn chapter has had with their headquarters at 87 MacDonough Street were recounted in The New York Times in December. Since then, many parties have offered monetary and professional support and an outstanding project team has been assembled to restore the building.
The National Trust’s backing speaks to the importance of the Tents in American history as well as the potential that the building has to be a place of support and learning for the Bedford-Stuyvesant community.
As a benevolent organization, the Tents had not paid taxes on their property for most of the time that they owned it. However, high taxes began to accrue in 2018 after a poorly executed subdivision of their property. The Department of Finance has been reassured by the recent progress to restore the property that it will be used for charitable purposes and has thus issued an exemption on property taxes going forward. The Conservancy has been advocating for this exemption since December. While the back taxes have not been entirely wiped out, this lifts a major burden on the Tents and will further the restoration work.
The restoration and renovation of 87 MacDonough Street is a large project and will involve a lot of hard work and much additional funding. Nonetheless, the Conservancy is confident that the events of the last month will lead to returning the building to a neighborhood asset.