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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 23, 2008 10:49 PM.

Bay Ridge U. M. C.

Photo: Forgotten NY

It would appear that the fate of Bay Ridge's Green Church has been sealed - and its not a pretty fate. After much back and forth, the church has officially obtained demolition permits. Next up, a dumpster and a Bricolage design (the former is probably the nobler fate; Dante has a circle for the latter). And then a seven-story condo. The church already been picked over by Olde Good Things, so presumably all that is left is the shell and the stuff that won't sell on 24th Street.

The church is officially known as Bay Ridge (or Grace) United Methodist Church, and was constructed in 1899 to the designs of George W. Kramer. It was much beloved, and there was a lot of support within the community to preserve the structure (almost 1,200 residents signed petitions to support saving the church). The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, but NYC Landmarks has refused to consider designation. This is an all-too-familiar scenario, particularly when it comes to churches. Despite the fact that most churches have clear social and cultural significance to their communities (significance that often extends beyond their own congregation or denomination), and despite the fact that many churches (like Green Church) are architecturally significant, there is clearly an unwillingness on the part of LPC to individually designate churches. Most churches in NYC that are protected by LPC are protected because they fall within historic districts, not because LPC has found them significant in their own right.

The sad part of all this is that there are often viable redevelopment options that can retain the historic churches. Yes, these options usually result in less profit than demolition, but the benefits to the community are clear. And in most cases, the developers wind up using the history of the buildings as a selling point. In Brooklyn, there are at least two recent examples - the Sanctuary in Fort Greene (formerly Our Lady of Pilar R.C. Chapel), and the former St. Peter Church on Hicks Street in Cobble Hill.

In the past few weeks, we have highlighted two of the many churches in Williamsburg, Bushwick and Greenpoint (we have a lot more coming). Holy Trinity Church, on Montrose, was constructed in 1884; St. Paul's Lutheran Church on Rodney, was constructed in 1882. Both parishes date to the 1840s - Holy Trinity is the second oldest Catholic congregation in North Brooklyn, and the oldest national parish in all of Brooklyn; St. Paul's Lutheran is the second oldest Lutheran congregation in North Brooklyn, and the oldest extant. Both buildings were constructed by prominent and accomplished architects of their time - William Schickel in the case of Holy Trinity; J. C. Cady in the case of St. Paul's. Both churches are also significant reminders of the ascendency of the German immigrant population in North Brooklyn in the mid to late 19th Century. Despite all of this history, and the clear architectural significance of these two buildings, the likelihood of them becoming landmarks is pretty slim - nonexistent if the churches themselves object. And yet objectively, both churches are clearly worthy of serious consideration for designation as individual landmarks. We suspect the same was true of Green Church.

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Eberhard Faber