They finally got the green light.
Workers broke ground on a new “Green Church” on Ovington Avenue earlier this month — seven years after the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church demolished the deteriorating, century-old house of worship to preservationists’ chagrin and sold most of the land with promises to build an easier-to-maintain chapel on the remainder. The new church’s scale will not be quite as grand as the old one’s, nor will it have the green-tinged, serpentine stone facade that lent the long-gone house of god its nickname, but it will be green in another way, according to the pastor.
“We’re going to have solar power,” said congregation pastor the Rev. Robert Emerick. “It’s really the Green Church now. It’s the new Green Church.”
The congregation sold the land in 2008, because maintaining the then-109-year-old church was too costly. The buyer planned to build condos there, but he sold the site to the city for $10 million in 2009 to build PS 331.
Parishioners successfully lobbied the National Parks Foundation to list the original church on its National Register of Historic Places in 1999, but when the site’s judgment day came a decade later, it was preservationists who fiercely opposed the temple’s destruction and congregants themselves who warned that sparing the ball would spoil the church. Worshippers thought it imprudent to “keep plowing money into a building” when they could spend the green advancing their religious mission, according to Emerick.
Church leaders promised to erect a new worship space on land alongside the school, but hold-ups obtaining the Department of Buildings’ approval kept contractors from breaking ground until now, Emerick said.
“It’s been a continuous haul since we started with the demolition,” he said. “It’s just taken this long to get everything ready and the process approved.”
The new church will occupy an Ovington Avenue plot the congregation retained when it sold off the rest of the lot in the aughts. The smaller complex is adequate for the 40-person congregation and will include some classrooms and church office space, Emerick said.
Still, the new church is no replacement for its iconic predecessor, said one neighbor who led preservation efforts seven years ago.
“I’m glad the church is keeping it’s commitment to parishioners, but I saw the renderings, and it doesn’t compare to what was there before,” said Victoria Homfo. “We’re sorry that the church had to come down at all.”