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Fight to save church needs Hail Mary

The Brooklyn Paper
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Preservationists and residents are cursing an unholy plan to tear down one of Bay Ridge’s most distinctive churches to make room for luxury condos.

Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, which earned a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places with its distinctive sandstone clock tower, has graced the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ovington for more than a hundred years and now looks like it could be sold by mid-March, according to representatives at Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“The sale will be all wrapped up … by the middle of March,” said company spokeswoman Kari Neering.

The unique church’s listing price of $12 million makes it unlikely that any potential suitor would maintain the historic property as is, instead inviting in the much-feared wrecking ball.

The cost of maintaining the church has been an issue for years, the church said in a statement.

“We have spent an inordinate amount of money in repair attempts, to protect the people who pass through the property of the church,” the statement said.

The news of the impending sale came as quite a shock for officials under the impression that they still had a shot at preserving one of the few standing centurion churches.

“I truly believe the church has sold out this community,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge)

The Councilman joined the Bay Ridge Conservancy to negotiate a deal that would convert the property into 87 units of subsidized housing through the Con Ed Renaissance Housing Project.

The deal promised to give the church $300,000 in revenue annually.

At the time, the church’s Board of Trustees said the proposal “did not come very close to addressing our continuing problems of the deterioration of the building and the increasing cost of maintaining it.”

Still, Gentile and others felt they could intercede, so many were outraged when The Brooklyn Paper informed them that the building was about to be sold.

“They intentionally kept us out of the loop because they didn’t want to have to deal with the bad press,” said Victoria Hofmo, president of the Bay Ridge Conservancy. “You think I am happy? They have been screwing with us for a year and a half now and they didn’t even have the courtesy to let us know that they made the decision.”

Hofmo said she has spent years on preserving what locals call the “Green Church.”

“I have no doubt residents will have a fit if they see a wrecking ball crash through that church,” said Hofmo. “No one wants to see that happen.”

The current plan involves tearing down the church and a second building to make room for a 150-seat church and a six- or seven-story apartment building.

Not everyone is embracing the plan. Gentile is still looking for a way to preserve the Bay Ridge landmark.

“We haven’t given up the fight yet,” said his aid, Eric Kuo said. “We still have some cards to play.”

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