Bay Ridge’s so-called “Green Church” is now a verdant pile of rubble — so let the blame-casting begin!
This week, workers leveled the 109-year-old Bay Ridge United Methodist Church to make room for a smaller, more modern church funded by the construction of condos.
But preservationists, who fought to save the emerald edifice at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues, say that the demolition is a reminder of how the city Landmarks Preservation Commission shirked its responsibility to protect the serpentine-stoned house of worship.
In 2007, the Landmarks panel declined to schedule a hearing to consider protecting the building — which was listed on the National Historic Register — denying neighborhood activists the chance to make their case for saving the church.
“There is an unwritten rule that if a building is owned by a developer or if something is pending like that, they won’t touch it unless it’s a really hard case,” said Bob Furman, president of the Brooklyn Preservation Commission, which fought to save the house of worship. “I think that’s probably what happened in the case of the ‘Green Church.’ As a general rule, when you try to get a building landmarked because it’s immediately endangered, you’re not going to get too far.”
Landmarks spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon dismissed the notion that the commission won’t intervene when a building is on the market.
“The sale status of a building has nothing to do with our decisions,” said de Bourbon. “We have a very experienced and knowledgeable group of people that made the decision that [the ‘Green Church’] didn’t merit consideration by the full commission.”
But the protesters who railed against the congregations plans to demolish the house of worship can’t see why the century-old house of worship wasn’t even discussed at a public hearing.
“They certainly should have considered it,” said “Green Church” preservationist Eric Rouda.
“Landmarks was alerted it was already up for sale — and they weren’t willing to interfere. To prevent future losses, Rouda suggested that Landmarks hold hearings for any building over 75 years old.
Councilman Mike McMahon (D–Staten Island) made a similar proposal in 2005, when he called for mandating a Landmarks Preservation Commission review of all buildings over 50-years-old before the Department of Buildings would be allowed to issue demolition permits.
That bill did not pass.