A devilish scrap-metal thief targeting St. Finbar’s parish stole pricey antique copper gutters off three Bay 20th Street church buildings, say parish officials who want the copper crook in custody.
Father Michael Gelfant, pastor of the house of worship between Benson and Bath avenues — one of the first Catholic institutions founded in Southern Brooklyn — said the blasphemous bandit took copper pipes and downspouts off the 100-year-old church buildings on Aug. 2 and again on Sept. 24, saddling the parish with thousands of dollars in repair bills.
“They tore up the brick and destroyed the soldering on the rest of the gutters when they took the copper down,” said the priest, who’s served St. Finbar for the past three years. “We got everything replaced with this brown metal, not copper, but it all had to be custom-made to fit the old gutters. It’s not something that you can just buy at Home Depot.”
Father Gelfant said the copper thieves hit the parish convent and the parochial school in August, costing the parish $16,000 — not including the replacement of the seven pipes that were stolen, which Gelfant estimated to be worth $1,000 a pipe given the high price copper commands at scrap yards.
The church had just finished recovering from the first attack when the second raid occurred — this time on the church itself.
“I was sitting at the light on Bath Avenue, and my mind was wandering, and I happened to look over at the church, and I thought ‘son of a b—-,’ ” said Gelfant, learning that the crafty thief had used metal snips to cut off another five pipes. The crooks also tried to remove a heavy metal plaque from the front of the church’s parish center.
Gelfant said the parish, which he said is hurting for funds, haven’t gotten new downspouts for the church. He added that he plans to put protective cages around the remaining copper downspouts, and is encouraging both local scrap yards and members of the community to stay vigilant to strange activity.
“These things are 30 feet long and very decorative. They’ve got to be pretty hard to miss,” the pastor said.
Investigators from the 62nd Precinct say the two crimes were most likely committed by the same thief.
Father Gelfant promised to forgive the pillager — under one condition.
“I want to know where my copper is and if I’m going to get it back,” he said.