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Green Church site for sale!

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He tore it down, now he’s putting it up for sale.

Developer Abe Betesh — the man whose purchase of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church led to its October demolition — installed a billboard at the site this week that reads: “For sale or lease: school, medical, non profit, residential.”

Betesh is in contract to buy the cleared land for $9.75 million — cash that worshippers say they need to build a smaller and easier to maintain church on the site.

But the Betesh billboard raised doubts about the future of the site at the corner of Ovington and Fourth avenues — especially among preservationists, who have long feared that the property would be flipped, or worse, not developed at all.

“We might wind up with a big hole on that corner,” said Victoria Hofmo, a member of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church.

“The church is down, what are we going to do now? There is a lot of angst, and a lot of loss, for what gain?”

Betesh could not be reached for comment, but he once told The Brooklyn Paper that development sites are often put on the market.

“As a developer, I’m always exploring options,” he said. “It’s not unusual at all for a development site to be on sale.”

In fact, it’s not unusual for the emerald-colored church and its large grounds to be on sale.

In April, the property briefly appeared on the Dakota Realty website for $11.5 million, and there’s also a current listing on the Massey Knakal Web site that indicates the property is actually “in contract” for $12 million.

No matter who ends up owning the site, the church is still planning to build on its parcel, Pastor Robert Emerick said.

“This doesn’t have any impact on the congregati­on,” said Emerick, whose congregation faced harsh opposition for its plans to replace the aging church with a more affordable structure. “The project is not dead by any means and nothing has happened to hurt the congregati­on.”

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Reader Feedback

Janice Schiavo from BayRidge says:
I would like to write just a short note to the Rev.Emerick about the Green Church.How come the Korean Church never paid you for use of the church? Why did you not try and open a youth center for the teenagers,you never got in touch with City Agencies to try and save the church.Remember we all have to answer to a higher authority.

Sincerely,
Janice Schiavo
Dec. 9, 2008, 4:31 pm
Ted from Bay Ridge says:
J Schiavo said - "Remember we all have to answer to a higher authority."
I think that's what they've been doing - trying to make best use of what the church has. Frankly, I think that "higher authority" would be a heckuva lot unhappier if they'd poured all their resources into a building just to make somebody else happy.
I betcha that if you did a poll of local clergy (of any kind), most of them would agree. And betcha that most congregations would get their back up if others tried to define what their religious purpose should be .. which includes who they should charge rent to, or how they should use their space.
Dec. 9, 2008, 11 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
This clearly shows what a poorly thought out idea demolishing the church was. How can they claim that all options were considered if there isn't even a final plan for the site now after the church has been demolished?

Unfortunately those involved in it's destruction will see that it was poor decision to destroy a unique building for development purposes when property values are sinking and the economy is not strong. Act in haste and repent at leisure.
Dec. 10, 2008, 7:30 am
Arvid31 from Bay Ridge says:
I've followed this thing closely (who couldn't?? it's been UNAVOIDABLE). and disagree w/Michael.
#1, The church sold before the market & R.E. crash, and they wanted a new place - not the old one.
#2, They're still building a new church; Betesh's thing is separate from theirs.
#3, The 3 "alternate" plans would've brought less $$ &/or made them dependent-forever on non-church business. (They also might've taken a cut in $$ - for the sake of low-income housing - only to have that housing become NON low-income ... twisting the purpose, and pretty much 'donating' church $$ to some profiteer.)
#4, If they'd FOLLOWED those plans, they'd have made less $$ or (if some plan fell thru) they'd be trying to sell - again - in a depressed market.
#5, In my memory - this place was a high-profile issue since FOREVER. Since the '90s, it warned us that it was falling apart. It ran two big fixit-fundraiser drives, which apparently didn't work. The superintense public church-saving campaign ran for 3 solid years, but didn't attract big-$ donors, fundraisers or VIP "angels," or anyone who would (or had $ to) buy and adopt/adapt the place.
#6, ... because even the 3 alternate developers didn't want tit for their own use. One would've fixed it as a church-only; one would've demolished everything but part of the facade (!!?); and one would've left it unfixed - some nonprofit woulda had to adopt it, then find the $ to fix it.

That's all pretty vague & unpromising, esp after years of trying & a big-p.r. church-save movement. This place could've killed itself by taking less $ or waiting to sell. Or the bldg could've rotted while "adopters" hemmed & hawed, or been mostly demolished anyway by an alleged-preservationist builder.

We MUST save historic/esthetic sites, but we need serious win-win plans. We can't just do a heads-up and get crazy when it's too late, ignore others' functional needs, or toss out ideas that make us happy, but take big risks with owners' sole asset - which their existence depends on, and which they've poured $$ into for years. That ain't the way to do it.
Dec. 10, 2008, 1:44 pm
Alexis from Bay Ridge says:
I think the _preservationist_ plan was poorly thought out. The concept was commendable, but they got on the bus late and then did ill-advised or unproductive things, like personal attacks, implying that the sale was illegal, that churches and cemeteries never moved, or had no right to, etcetera.

That was _very bad for all of us _ because it made preservationism look flaky or hostile. Other churches and landmarkables will take their cue from this mess -- if they want to sell or modify, they probably will play it even closer to the vest and will dot every "i," to prevent kibitzing.
Dec. 11, 2008, 6:17 pm

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