Ring them bells: St. Mark tower upgrade almost finished

Ring them bells: St. Mark tower upgrade almost finished
Steve Solomonson

St. Mark Church’s iconic steeple is checking out of rehab.

Father Joseph Grimaldi said repair work on the 82-year-old brick bell tower — which rises 16 stories on Jerome Avenue and E. 19th Street in Sheepshead Bay — should be finished within four to six weeks.

“The tower’s always been a landmark,” Grimaldi said. “But it’s taken a beating over the years.”

Roughly 1,000 bricks in the tower that were eroded by wind and rain are being replaced, along with the mortar holding them together in a process known in the brick and mortar industry as “replacing and repointing.”

The steeple’s slat-tiled roof is also undergoing repairs.

The project was started last November and will cost around $200,000 — a significant sum for a church that has seen its flock slip from 3,000 families in the 1960s to 700 today. Grimaldi said parishioners ponied up the cash to restore the steeple this year in order to celebrate St. Mark’s 150th anniversary in 2011.

The church was founded in 1861, and opened at its present location in 1929.

“People take great pride in the church,” he said. “We’re still a very strong presence here.”

In other Sheepshead Bay steeple news, the 142-year-old United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay on Ocean Avenue between Voorhies Avenue and East 21st Street is also in the process of repairing its own iconic twin spires, after plans to remove the aging steeples sparked an outcry from residents and elected officials last year.

The church dropped plans to take down the leaning steeples because it “caused too much backlash in the community,” said James Smith, the church sexton.

Presently, the building foundation is being shored-up to accommodate the weight of the steeples.