Brownsville Church Saved from Wrecking Ball

lady-of-loreto-061610.jpgAfter many months, a coalition of community members and preservationists have won a battle to save an historic church in Brownsville. The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn had shuttered the Lady of Loreto Church at 124 Sackman Street two years ago, and last year announced plans to allow a non-profit developer to tear it down and build 102 affordable apartments in its place. Under a compromise plan, the church will now be saved and turned into a community center and only 50 apartments will be built. “It’s a toned-down plan,” said Charles Piazza, 57, who helped lead the preservation fight as a member of Italian Americans for Preservation and Community. “But at least we have saved the church.” Director of the Brownsville Heritage Center, Patricia Deans, who worked with Piazza to convince the Diocese not to demolish the church, said, “It means we’re going to finally serve the needs of the community.”
Brownsville Community Saves Our Lady of Loreto Church [NY Daily News]
A Reprieve for Historic Brownsville Church [Brownstoner]
Lady of Loreto’s Most Desperate Hour [Brownstoner]
Fight to Preserve Ocean Hill Church [Brownstoner]
Photo from NYLC

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  • See, it can be done. A historic building can be saved, and the community can still get needed housing. A winning situation for all. I’m very glad to hear this. Too bad the same situation couldn’t have been found for that equally historic church in Bay Ridge.

  • On one hand I’m happy that a fairly attractive building was saved from the wrecking ball…

    But I’m a little ‘chafed’ by comments like “It means we’re going to finally serve the needs of the community.” So, this was an unused church… or at least not used enough for the Diocese to maintain and staff the building. Some company and the church came up with a plan to build housing… BUT THEN AND ONLY THEN was there outrage about how the “needs of the community” weren’t being served.

    Where was the million man march on Greene Avenue to protest the shuttering of the church in the first place?

    It just bugs me… the status quo is slow decay. No one would have noticed or given two shits if the church just crumbled over 20 years. HOWEVER, someone suggest speeding up that process with a demolition crew… well, that just can’t happen!

  • By the way — who’s paying for this community center?

  • Benson ain’t gonna be happy.

  • You make excellent points, tybur. Unfortunately, it usually takes the threat of demolition to wake people up. I too, wish more proactive means would be taken before the bulldozers are rolling up the street, but that seldom happens, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

  • By tybur6 on June 16, 2010 9:59 AM

    By the way — who’s paying for this community center?

    from the article:

    “It’s bittersweet,” said Jeffrey Dunston, director of North East Brooklyn Housing Development Corp., which partnered with Deans and others to keep the church and develop housing. “I’m glad that the church is being saved but I’m not sure about the direction [the diocese] is going in.”

    For its part, the diocese still plans to lease the land to Progress of Peoples Development Corp., a branch of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, to renovate the church and build more than 50 affordable apartments.

    Sounds like one of the developers will be footing the construction costs. What will sustain it? Who funds all the other community centers around the city? Some kind of gov’t program?

  • MM, preservationists worked hard to save the Bay Ridge UMC. Unfortunately, nobody (including the congregation, despite serious fundraising on its part) could come up with the $3 million (or so) needed to conserve or replace the serpentine stone on the exterior.

  • Let me repeat, as someone who knows, when it gets down to it, to the bottom line, between Sunday school, charitable giving, or preserving a segment of an historic church, preserving a segment of an historic church will ALWAYS be considered last, at least in contemporary times.

    Lip service will be paid but people will want babysitting for their kids at church events and to send money/time to relief organizations.

    So this being done is truly heroic in my eyes. Triumph over human complacency indeed.

  • jester — absolutely. In terms of the Church’s mission is not to preserve a building (no matter how ‘historic’ it is). The buildings were built to *facilitate* the whole God, charity and education thing.

  • Stephen was stoned for saying as much: anyone who so venerates the Temple that it ceases to be a place of worship for the transcendent God and instead a place where self-congratulating men take pride in what they have built and done.

    ~New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

  • I share many similarities with St. Stephen… OK, no I don’t.

  • I agree with Montrosse 100%. A distinctive and solid historic church was saved by folks who love it. That is a good thing. Ancient buildings are often put to a variety of uses. That is one of the ways they survive the ages.

  • What a shame: 52 affordable housing units off the table. Think of that, preservationists, while you’re relaxing in your comfy homes in LI, Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc. Brownsville hopes to see you maybe 1-2 times over the next 10 years.

  • Ancient historic churches are put to other uses, and old historic theaters are being put to use as churches. Sometimes certain therapy groups meet in rooms of old churches. I was thinking about the Green Church that was torn down. Part of it could have been put to use as a therapy facility for troubled commenters. haha

  • Sorry, that was no reference to BJ who posted simultaneously.

  • Big Jugs;

    The frownstoners will assuage themselves with a lecture by Montrose about the need for more subsidized “affordable” housing.

    Ever notice how the frownstoners always have a solution to the problems they perceive – be it the need to preserve a shuttered church or more affordable housing – with someone else’s money?

  • Quote by infinitej at 12:13 PM – “Stephen was stoned for saying as much: anyone who so venerates the Temple that it ceases to be a place of worship for the transcendent God and instead a place where self-congratulating men take pride in what they have built and done. ~New Interpreter’s Bible”
    Well, InfiniteJ, there is much truth there and room for thought. I was thinking something like that about the Green Church, well not *exactly* like that. But there is a reason that churches become abandoned by congregations. It is usually when the people can no longer feel the presence of God there, and they abandon the building and go wherever the presence of God is felt by them. So there is no one left behind to fund just the building. Then it becomes architecture instead of a place of worship. It is said the world is becoming a much tougher place and people will seek the presence of God in ways they haven’t done in recent times. Some churches become so spiritually vacant that God himself moves on. I know everyone doesn’t believe that way, but I didn’t originate this. It is called something like when, “Ichabod is written over the door.” One would have to look that up exactly.