Three years after promising $5M West Village house to the Lenape, Louise Bourgeois’ son backtracks

November 4, 2019

6 Weehawken Street in 2017; Map data © 2019 Google

Three years after Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois announced plans to transfer the deed of his West Village townhouse to a nonprofit organization run by a former chief of the Ramapough Indians—part of the Lenape Nation, the original Manhattanites—the millionaire activist (and artist Louise Bourgeois’ son) has decided to hold onto it after all. Bourgeois was working on plans to transform the historic wood-frame home into a patahmaniikan, or a prayer house, when he decided that he was in fact “married to this building” and no longer eager to give it away, as the New York Post reports.

Bourgeois bought the property at 6 Weehawken Street in 2006 for $2.2 million, and its current value is estimated to be about $5 million. Some documents date the three-story home to 1834, but Bourgeois said he believed it actually dates further back to the 1770s. It was built on land that had been part of the colonial Newgate State Prison and then became part of the Greenwich Market (also known as Weehawken Market) of which it is the last surviving piece. Since then, it’s housed a saloon, a gambling parlor, an oyster house, bars, and an adult video shop. Bourgeois told the New York Times in 2016 that he found peep show machines inside when he first bought it.

At one point Bourgeois planned to turn the space into a museum dedicated to clean water issues, complete with a seven-foot waterfall installation designed by his mother, who passed away in 2010. Further contemplation and time spent in North Dakota protesting the proposed pipeline near the Sioux Standing Rock Indian Reservation convinced Bourgeois—who lives half a block away from the house—to essentially return the “stolen” property to the island’s original residents.

“Manhattan is a capitalist rock; this is a quiet protest against that,” Bourgeois said to the Times in 2016. “I’m giving it back to whom the land was stolen from, and that’s really a joyful event.”

Bourgeois’ generous gesture grabbed headlines back in 2016, but it was not without controversy. He chose Anthony Van Dunk as the recipient of the deed after meeting him during the Occupy Wall Street protests, but Van Dunk is a contested figure among the Ramapough. Van Dunk served as chief for only one year in 2006, during which time a tribe member was fatally shot by a New Jersey State Park Police officer. Van Dunk lost the next election to Dwaine C. Perry and was subsequently barred from the nation by a tribal vote.

Van Dunk did not consult a lawyer and the two never signed a contract or formalized their agreement in any way. In mid-2017, Van Dunk told the Post he was talking with Bourgeois in the house, when he told him: “Look, I’m married to this building. I’m not going to give it away.”

The Post reports Bourgeois has recently pitched turning the residence into “Gloria Steinem University,” an idea that was rejected by the feminist leader. When pushed for comment on Friday, Bourgeois reportedly said he was still interested in donating the property to Native Americans.

[Via New York Post]


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