A BRITISHER’S VIEW – The ‘Green Church’ could have been saved

“For the love of money is the root of all evil…” [Timothy 6:10].

The time-honored adage doesn’t seem to carry much weight with the short-sighted, money-grubbing, historically-challenged pastor and his full-of-it flock at the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, who should be happy now that they’ve succeeded in destroying “the most distinctive building” in the neighborhood because of their hard-boiled greed.

Until its demolition began a few weeks ago, the delightful, 109-year-old house of worship at 4th and Ovington avenues – locally known as the ‘Green Church’ for its pea-green serpentine stonework, and on the National Register of Historic Places since 1999 – was clinging to life support as preservationists clashed with the cavalier congregation over its survival, and ultimate fate.

Who, but dimwits, would want a beautiful church, designed by eminent 19th century American architect George W. Kramer in a transitional late Victorian/Romanesque Revival style, to be reduced to rubble and then resurrected into a small, prayer and community ‘facility,’ financed by a blight of condos, as desired by Pastor Robert Emerick and his congregation, who stand to gain very little of the $9.75 million sale price after the ‘i’s’ have been dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed in the current fiscal climate.

In February, Pastor Emerick, told this column that there had been “no talk” of conservation because, apparently, “one architect” had assessed the grand church of worship as being a hopeless case back in 1998.

Not everyone agrees. “The building is not coming down that easily because it’s basically sound,” reportedly said Bay Ridge Conservancy Founder Victoria Hofmo of the demolition.

Hats off, to the visionaries from the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, though, for their toils, troubles and tears, which found no sympathy, nor sanctuary, in the leadership of the church, or the community, save for the failed efforts of Councilman Vincent Gentile, who at least tried to find a “win-win” situation by attempting to broker a good-faith, revenue-generating deal with Consolidated Edison to restore the church, and its two-lot property of 88,237 square feet, and build housing for seniors upon it.

That is more than can be said for State Senator Marty Golden, who could have prodded Albany, or used his own discretionary funds, to help repair the absolutely-fixable treasure in his backyard.

According to its Website, the Committee recently held a petition drive and presented the state legislator with the signatures of 1,179 Bay Ridge residents, who wanted to save the church “…in response to Golden’s statement, some months ago, that he hadn’t heard from the community,” but Mr. Golden remained “unmoved,” even though his spokesperson said the signatures were “very nice.”

It is shameful that an influential civil servant of the area – such as Mr. Golden is – didn’t see fit to lobby for the Green Church, or at the very least contact the Landmarks Preservation Commission about its salvation. After all, much lesser issues have felt the brunt of his political muscle.

Just two years ago, he wielded his authority, and taxpayer funds, to investigate a sweet humming reported near the 69th Street Pier, which turned out to be innocuous oyster toadfish. At the time, Mr. Golden fired off a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation about the “horrible sound,” plus solicited advice on, “…what actions can be taken to make the shores of our community less desirable to this specific fish,” plus told this newspaper, “…we want an understanding about what’s going on here, and what the long-term effects might be.”

Today, the Green Church, once sweetly snuggled between lush hedgerows and a place of calm and reflection for multiple generations of believers and others, may have been sparkling from a makeover if only Mr. Golden had spent as much time agonizing over a beloved, 109-year-old community icon, as he did over a fishy late-night racket.

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