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Another Bay Ridge church to be demolished

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Another one of Bay Ridge’s beloved old churches is going to be demolished for development — and locals aren’t happy.

Salam Arabic Lutheran Church on Ovington Avenue, which was recently sold by the New York Lutheran Synod for $1.5 million, will be replaced by a five-story, 25-unit apartment building, according to plans filed on Feb. 16 with the city.

“Do we need 25 more apartments? No,” said preservationist Victoria Hofmo, who lamented both the increase in density the construction will bring and the loss of a community treasure, a 70-year-old church modeled after one in Denmark.

“In Bay Ridge, there’s no way to develop without destroying something — and we’re tired of it,” Hofmo added.

But the new owner of the site, Xi Wu, said he was surprised to hear about local disappointment.

“I spoke to a lot of people and nobody told me they were sad about it,” he told us.

Declining parish populations are encouraging congregations to sell off their greatest asset — their buildings. Usually, the buildings are demolished — but they don’t need to be.

In December, the Lutheran Synod sold Salem Lutheran Church, at 67th Street near Fourth Avenue, to St. Matthew’s Church, for $2.65 million. That building will remain.

But a year earlier, the nearly century-old Bay Ridge United Methodist Church was sold to a developer for $9.75 million and was promptly torn down. When the real-estate boom went bust, the site was sold to the city, which is building a new public school.

Salam Arabic Lutheran Church opened as the Salem Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1942. The building, between Third and Fourth avenues, was transferred from the shrinking Danish congregation to the Arabic one in 1995, and renamed, but it could not survive a cash-straped Synod.

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Reader Feedback

Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Understandable, I gave religion for Twitter also.
Feb. 28, 2011, 10:33 am
Maria from Bay Ridge says:
The old neighborhoods and community spirits are gone as it seems everything has become transient and disposable. Victoria is a fantastic lady that works very hard to keep the Scandinavian traditions and Museum going.
Feb. 28, 2011, 9:23 pm
NYChick from Bay Ridge says:
I can understand why people are upset to see the church go, but really, Victoria?: “Do we need 25 more apartments? No,” said preservationist Victoria Hofmo. Um how about yes? It's a battlefield trying to get a new place in Bay Ridge now that the yuppies learned it's cheaper here than in the Slope. Not to mention every affordable rental needs about 10k in updates/renovations.

Granted, this will probably be just some more condos that no one is buying... MAKE IT RENTALS!!
March 1, 2011, 3:48 pm
Gerry Vassilatos from formerly Bay Ridge says:
In the matter of recent church demolitions...there are emerging personalities who lead these betrayals of faith... who conveniently forget the struggle of immigrants and their countless thousands of dollars. One individual was (in the case of the Danish Church) personally responsible for its sale to the Chinese development group.
The interior of the building was violated by them beyoind recognition...with bibles and hymnals sacriligiously heaped together with debris. Disrespect of this sort would not come from Christians. Apparently, the ideals of a foreign republic seem to have found new voise here.
The Pipe Organ was demolished first...which lent a particularly offensive tone to the interior destruction. No efforts were made by this developer to preserve this marvelous instrument.
Efforts were neither made for the preservation of stained glass windows or of the other ecclesiastiic artforms. Certainly the printed material was neither valued nor considered valuable by the demolition teams. This infringement of Christian Ideals by this developer requires further civil attention.
Finally, the person or persons responsible for this wholesale eradication of sacred buildings needs the correction of civil law, which seems fearfully lacking in their synod...with the questionable misappropriation of funds being the least of our chief concerns.
April 10, 2011, 6:42 pm
96th Street from Bay Ridge says:
Uh, Victoria, we DESPERATELY need more housing in Bay Ridge. Maybe you bought 40 years ago and are set, but young people like me want some housing options too, you know.

In contrast, Bay Ridge is filled with mostly empty churches. Why not convert some of these sites into housing, since there's a huge glut of religious facilities, and huge shortage of housing?
Dec. 30, 2013, 11:23 am

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