Bay Ridge is becoming the “Neighborhood of Sold Churches.”
For the second time in two weeks, a church has been sold, as a developer will cough up $1.5 million to buy the property owned by the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church on Ovington Avenue, between Third and Fourth avenues.
The sale of the church was confirmed by John Litke, the director of administration for the Lutheran Synod of New York, who would not name the buyer, leaving conservationists wondering if the building will suffer the same fate of the so-called “Green Church,” located down the block, which was knocked down earlier this year.
“I think it’s terrible for the block and terrible for the community,” said preservationist Victoria Hofmo. “Churches are part of the fabric of the community and knocking them down undermines it. We can’t get them back.”
Over the past few years, a slew of churches in Bay Ridge have either been shut down or sold. In Dec., 2009, the Fort Hamilton Presbyterian Church closed, and last week, the Lutheran synod sold Salem Lutheran Church, at 67th Street near Fourth Avenue, to an international church, St. Matthew’s Church, for $2.65 million.
The Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, fondly known as the Green Church, was demolished by the congregation after it sold the property to a developer for $9.75 million at the height of the housing boom, to make way for luxury condos that were never built.
That site was subsequently sold to the city, which is building a new public school there.
The historic church opened as the Salem Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1942 and was modeled after a church in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s flock was transferred from the shrinking Danish congregation to the Arabic one in 1995, and the church was subsequently renamed.
Zoning under the Church would allow for a medium-sized apartment building to rise up in its place.
That, however, was not enough to prevent the synod from selling.
The Arabic congregation has financial woes, said the Reverend Khader El-Yateem, the church’s pastor.
“We don’t have enough money to keep the building up,” he said. “We have to think of creative ways we can keep our ministry going.”
The sale, which was approved about two months ago by the Synod, is expected to be concluded in the next few weeks. The congregation’s last service in the old church will be held on Jan. 2; afterwards, the congregation will move a few blocks to share space at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, at 80th Street and Fourth Avenue.