Everyone in Bay Ridge believes the Green Church should be saved — everyone except the parishioners at this century-old house of worship, that is.
Church officials and preservationists squared off with parishioners on Monday night at an “emergency meeting” over the fate of the cherished church.
And parishioners of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church weren’t happy.
“This whole meeting is an ambush,” said Raquel Cortizo. “[Councilman Vince] Gentile is pitting this community against the church, and I don’t think it is right.”
The trouble began after reports of the sale of the Methodist cathedral, which has graced the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ovington for more than a hundred years and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The news came as a shock to Gentile and other officials, who said church elders had assured them that there was still time to save the church from being torn down to make room for condos.
Gentile is still pushing for a deal that he, the Bay Ridge Conservancy, and Con Ed worked out that would create 87 units of subsidized housing on the church campus while generating $300,000 in annual revenue annually to pay for upkeep of the church building itself.
The church would also have complete control over the property as part of a 99-year lease, said the optimistic Gentile.
But the mood changed when Gentile invited questions from parishioners, who accused him of not inviting church members to the meeting.
“No one had any idea about this,” said Cortizo. “They were trying to keep us shut out of this meeting. Everyone is forgetting that this is our property and we can sell it if we want. These people should just mind their own business.”
Fellow parishioner Ed Smith added that the pastor, Reverend Robert Emerick, has been very open with the congregation about plans to sell the church.
“We are tired of fighting it,” Smith said. “The renovations would cost our congregation $3 million a year and we have an offer on the table for $12 million or Gentile’s proposal of $300,000 a year. Which would you take?”
Smith said the congregation is fully behind Emerick and the sale.
“It is a private property matter and the Landmarks Preservation Commission won’t even discuss the issue,” Smith added. “Do you really think [spending] $3 million for renovations is what Jesus would want us to do with everything else going on in the world today?”
Still, Gentile is pushing his plan, handing out an “Action Sheet” that offered the “names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people who can stop the destruction,” Gentile said.
The list included church elders; the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has the power to declare a building a landmark even without the owner’s permission; and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who must approve the sale of all religious property to private developers.