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Religious conversions: Greenpoint parish joins long line of boro churches turning residential • Brooklyn Paper

Religious conversions: Greenpoint parish joins long line of boro churches turning residential

Ascension: The Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint sold its neighboring parish hall — which will become apartments — to fund repairs on the main sanctuary.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

It is the Borough of Churches no more!

Greenpoint’s historic Church of the Ascension has sold its parish hall to a developer, which will turn the Java Street building into apartments — just the latest in a long line of Brooklyn holy houses to lose their religion as parishioner numbers decline and demand for housing increases.

Brooklynites may not like worshipping in churches anymore — but sure do love living in them, says one developer.

“I think people are drawn towards old churches,” said Chris Horrigan of Horrigan Development, which will transform the 19th-century Java Street parish hall into residential units.

The church’s landmarked Kent Street sanctuary, part of the Greenpoint Historic District, will remain untouched as a place of worship while the connected event space will get a facade makeover — though part of the original brick will remain intact — and will gain two stories to make room for 18 residential units, Horrigan said.

The church decided to sell the largely unused building — only the ground-floor of the old three-story structure was still safe for habitation — to help pay for much-needed repairs to the main sanctuary and clergy housing, said a church leader.

“The size of our congregation and the economic capacity of our congregation would make it an enormous challenge to attempt to fix any one of our three properties,” said Rev. John Merz.

It is a common problem amongst the borough’s aging houses of god, he said — buildings are crumbling, but dwindling attendance numbers result in fewer funds to fix them.

“There are simply not the numbers to sustain congregations that can maintain the healthy functioning of these structures,” said Merz.

Here are some other sacred Brooklyn buildings on the path to secularization:

Hebron Baptist Church

Developer CS Real Estate is in the midst of turning this former Bedford-Stuyvesant house of worship on Willoughby Avenue, between Throop and Thompkins avenues, into a 16-unit apartment building, but will largely preserve the existing brick facade as the ground floor. The church has moved its congregation to Brownsville.

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church

The Williamsburg church will lease a large chunk of its property on Wythe Avenue, between S. Second and S. Third streets, to developer Watermark Capital, which plans on building a 19-story, 130-unit building there. But the Catholic parish ensured its holy ground was in good hands before it sealed the deal — the developer has agreed not to use the space for any sacrilegious activities involving abortion, pornography, or euthanasia, according to a DNA Info report.

Saint Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

The church sold this majestic 145-year-old holy house on Washington Avenue between Willoughby and DeKalb avenues to Brookland Capital for $8.8 million last year. The real estate firm plans on turning it into condominiums — though it will have to get approval from the city’s landmarks commission for any changes to the exterior, since the structure is part of the Clinton Hill Historic District. The church itself closed in June.

Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception

This Williamsburg Catholic church at Ten Eyck and Leonard streets has already been born again as an apartment building, housing 40 units, though still retains the general shape and size of the original structure. The church merged with the Parish of Most Holy Trinity on nearby Montrose Street in 2007, where the congregation now worships.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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