Secret Order of Tents Society Saved With Tax Exemption

The historic secret aid society run by Black women that has a headquarters in the magnificent but dilapidated building at 87 MacDonough Street was granted a tax exemption today, according to New York City Council Member Justin Brannan.

Brannan, chairman of the committee on finance, said in an email that the Department of Finance reduced the amount of back property tax owed by the United Order of Tents, and while it could not be totally wiped away “we got them a compromise with frozen interest and their historic HQ will be saved!” he told Brownstoner.

Last July the nonprofit launched a GoFundMe that said the group needed $200,000 to repair the large 1863 Italianate and Second Empire mansion it has owned since 1945. The fundraising target was later increased to $350,000, and, to date, the organization has raised $234,156.

87 macdonough st

The entrance in the snow in 2020. Photo by Susan De Vries

Meanwhile, the society will also receive funding from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the nonprofit announced a few days ago, as Amsterdam News was the first to report. The exact amount of the grant was not disclosed but is expected to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Needed repairs include installing radiators throughout the building as well as replacing a leaky roof, the building’s electrical wiring, a door in the basement, masonry steps going into the basement, fire escapes, and the water pipes inside and outside the building. Also needing refurbishment are the interior walls, water-damaged ceilings and floors, the front of the building, and all the windows.

The mansion, which sits in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District and is listed on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places — and was called a jewel of Bed Stuy by Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen — has come under threat and fallen into disrepair due to “bad contractors, financial hardship and opportunistic property developers,” according to the fundraiser.

Related Stories

Email [email protected] with further comments, questions or tips. Follow Brownstoner on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.