The prospective buyers of the historic T. Thomas Fortune house property want to develop the site into affordable housing, according to a press release from the borough Historic Preservation Commission.
The names of the would-be buyers have yet to be disclosed, and this is the first we’re hearing of what they’ve got planned for the site, at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard.
If the report is true, though, the plan would appear to pit the historians against preservationists of another stripe: those who want to keep the West Side an affordable place to live.
HPC Chairman George Bowden tells us he still doesn’t know who is in talks with members of the selling Vaccarelli family. Bowden says he feels “like a CIA operative” trying to find out, but all he’s been able to learn from broker Geoff Brothers is that “the contracts are out there” and one party has yet to sign off.
The HPC recently toured the building “the interior is in ill-kempt condition but structurally sound and could be restored,” Bowden says.
The group also created a subcommittee, chaired by Gilda Rogers, a journalist and staffer at Red Bank Regional, to try to drum up attention from media across the U.S., including significant outlets of African-American news. Fortune, a pioneering post-slavery journalist, edited works by Margus Garvey and Booker T. Washington, and is said to have coined the term ‘Afro-American.’
Among the subcommittee’s members is Rev. Terence K. Porter of the Pilgrim Baptist Church.