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Digital ding-dong! Greenpoint church will replace bells with recording

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A Greenpoint church’s century-old bells might be going digital.

Father Robert Czok, pastor of St. Anthony’s Church on Manhattan Avenue, said that the parish would have to raise more than $20,000 to fix the original system, but only half that amount to replace the sonorous clanging of actual bells with a recording.

The digital ding-dong is emerging as the most likely scenario because the Diocese of Brooklyn has said it is unable to lend any money for the repair.

“The Diocese won’t pay for them,” said Czok. “It’s not considered an emergency, and even in an emergency situation. we’d have to raise our own funds.”

The three Westminster bells at St. Anthony’s, which were installed in 1895, weigh 8,000 pounds total. The church doesn’t employ an on-duty chimesmaster anymore, instead relying on an automatic striking system. But that system was shut down last month after Czok noticed that the striker had deteriorated.

The cheapest replacement option is the digital system that would provide an impressive range of hymnology for only $10,000.

The next cheapest option, at $19,000, is fixing the striker while keeping the bell stationary.

The most expensive option, $25,000, is to allow the bells to swing in the belfry, but Czok is worried that the 165-year-old church tower could collapse from the bells’ momentum.

Without the periodic gonging, longtime residents are sad.

“I grew up with those bells, they’re very important,” said 81-year-old Virginia Sheehan. “When I wake up, I don’t have to bother looking at a clock, I know what time it is.”

Czok said that the church’s first fundraiser would be the annual raffle at the Feast of St. Padua on June 13.

And two neighborhood blogs, New York Shitty and Brooklyn 11211, are launching a Chipin fundraising campaign.

Greenpoint resident Teresa Toro said she can’t wait to contribute.

“Their sound of those bells has contributed to the neighborhood’s texture and warmth and it’s always been a constant, comforting presence,” said Toro. “Everyone I’ve spoken to feels the same way whether they’ve lived in Greenpoint for 40 minutes or 40 years.

Czok says that many Greenpoint residents, even those outside the parish, have approached him about helping restore the bells to their former glory.

“It’s part of the audible survey of the neighborhood, a subliminal reminder that there’s something bigger than us and all our problems — a reminder that there is a God,” said Czok.

The church has been a beacon for immigrant, working-class Irish and Polish Catholic families since it was built in 1856 — and today it remains the only church in Greenpoint that offers a Spanish mass for the neighborhood’s burgeoning Latino population.

But perhaps it is best known as the 20-mile mark in the New York City Marathon, offering one of the best photo-ops of the race.

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Reader Feedback

kow from greenpoint says:
20K mark of the marathon, not mile.
April 25, 2011, 2:51 pm
Paul from Greenpoint says:
Although quaint, they are incredibly loud and a nuisance especially at midnight, one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven AM in the morning. Up to now they often rang the wrong time of day. They rang 12:00 for 1:00 am for a week after daylight savings and remained an hour off. This happens often. I have heard them ring several times in succession until they land upon the correct time (6,9,8 for 8am). I appreciate the position of older retired folks who have become sentimental for these bells but to me I only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night because of them and I work long hours with my hands and heavy machinery. Seriously this is a huge problem. In this apartment I have not but a handful of times gotten to sleep before midnight for the ringing and when I wear earplugs I have gotten ear infections and have slept through my alarms. I cannot afford to move either. I can except the bells as a call to worship and enjoy a good peel for such occasions but I would propose that there is no need for anyone of any age to know in their sleep that it is midnight, one, two, three, four, five, six or seven AM in the morning. The bells should ring if anything between 8am and 8pm and nothing Saturday morning. This matter has been the most troubling and since they stopped I have been enjoying sleep for the first time in a long while. Now I am terribly concerned that I might again lose this necessary function. I appeal to you Father Czok to consider this as I am not the only neighbor that feels this way.
May 7, 2011, 12:08 pm
Rolf from Greenpoint says:
Recorded digital bells, what's next, recorded sermons? How many would that save?
May 15, 2011, 8:19 am
Bill Powers from Greenpoint says:
For all the reasons Father Czok notes the digital option is best for the area's resident's and tradition. Its 24/7 ringing adds a welcoming spirit to the environment which the community needs.
Jan. 29, 2012, 12:44 pm

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