City: Smite the ‘Green’ Church

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city has paved the way for the destruction of the so-called “Green Church,” issuing a demolition permit that answers the prayers of a congregation that has long sought to tear down its historic house of worship.

The three-year crawl towards the destruction of the 109-year-old Bay Ridge United Methodist Church inched towards its conclusion on Sept. 19, when the Department of Buildings greenlighted the demolition of the verdant church at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues.

“Green Church” worshippers plan to replace their decaying edifice with a smaller, more modern church funded by the construction of condos — despite public outcry and protests from preservationists, and efforts to rescue the church by Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

It is unclear when the building will come down, though the demolition can start at any time.

An employee from Cavalier Construction Corp — a Long Island–based construction company overseeing the demolition — refused to comment.

“I don’t care to speak with you right now,” he told The Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t have all my ducks in a row just yet.” Pastor Robert Emerick also declined to comment last week about exactly when the building would face the wrecking ball.

The imminent death of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church comes at the end of a lengthy process that pit preservationists against the congregation in a battle of who cared the most about the future.

The preservationists said they only wanted to save a vitally important historic structure, while the congregation claimed that it was counter to their religious mission to keep pouring money into a hard-to-maintain structure.

Gentile offered three proposals, but Emerick said they all fell short of meeting the needs of the congregation.

As the demolition nears, plans for a seven-story, 72-unit residential building and smaller church — which were rejected by the Department of Buildings in July — still do not have city approval.

Yet as blue construction fencing rose around the crumbling church this week, finger-pointing over the coming demolition continued.

Last week, Gentile unveiled the results of his much-ballyhooed hunt for new developers that, he claims, would have preserved the emerald-colored house of worship — but church officials said the plans weren’t good enough.

“None of the alternative offers came anywhere close to meeting the church’s needs or the congregation’s needs,” said Emerick.

Despite his failure to get the congregation to reconsider tearing down the limestone landmark, Gentile heralded the preservation efforts as “valiant.”

Now that demolition permits have been approved, the fight to preserve the church has ended — and the activists who protested against tearing down the edifice are crushed.

“I just feel so frustrated,” said Victoria Hofmo, a member of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church. “I can’t see why none of these things will work.”

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