Man pledged to give NYC building back to Lenape Indians, instead left $50K to cat
This kitty is now a fat cat.
A millionaire who once pledged to give his historic West Village property back to the Lenape Indians didn’t leave a dime to the tribe when he died last year — but did give part of his $14 million estate his black house cat, Mali.
Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, who died Dec. 8 at age 82, bequeathed his cat and $50,000 for the feline’s care to a close friend in Queens, according to court documents.
“I give my black house cat, Mali, and/or any other pets living with me at my death to my friend, David Schonberger. I also give David Schonberger the sum of $50,000 for the care and maintenance of my pets, including the payment of premiums for veterinary health care insurance,” according to Bourgeois’ will.
Schonberger could not be reached.
But Bourgeois was far less explicit when it came to the Weehawken Street property which landed him in the headlines in 2016, when he declared he wanted to give the 1834 clapboard building to the original residents of Manhattan — the Lenape tribe.
Bourgeois was “appalled” that the island had been “taken by whites,” he declared at the time, calling the structure a “trophy from major theft.”
He connected with Anthony Van Dunk, a former chief of the Ramapough Indians, who are part of the Lenape Nation.
But by 2019 they had a falling out, and the deal was never consummated.
Van Dunk said he had no ill will toward Bourgeois, whom he considered a friend, and praised the bequest to the four-legged friend.
“Well, Mali was well worth $50,000. … She could meow with the best of them,” he said. “She was a great cat. She was always there with him, and for him, towards the end. She was a very good feline company as much as a cat can be.”
The son of artist Louise Bourgeois, a sculptor who died in 2010 and is known for her large scale sculptures and affinity for spiders, Jean-Louis left a roughly $15 million estate benefiting friends, an adopted son, and his mother’s nonprofit, the Easton Foundation.
Bourgeois directed his executors to sell his remaining property — and didn’t leave the Weehawken Street home to anyone.
The three-floor wooden home, which his family’s LLC bought in 2006 for $2.2 million, is worth at least $5 million. It was once part of a city-owned market building and has housed a pool hall, gay bars and an adult video shop.
Bourgeois, who also owned property in Africa, bequeathed his properties in Mali to his Abdoul Karim Bakary Soumano, who was often referred to as Bourgeois’ adopted son, and his Putnam County condo to Soumano.
He then directed his co-executors — Soumano and Bourgeois’ brother, former New York Criminal Court Judge Alain Bourgeois — to sell any remaining residential property, and for Schonberger to come up with a list of charitable organizations to receive any remaining cash from the estate.
Alain Bourgeois declined to comment on his brother’s estate, but said “no decision has been made” on the Weehawken property.
Soumano, his wife and daughter each received $100,000 in Bourgeois’ will. The Manhattan native also requested to buried near his wife, Carollee Pelos, in New Mexico.