A beloved Ocean Hill church, already once saved from the wrecking ball, has become entwined once more in a thorny tug-of-war between those attempting to save and those attempting to demolish the structure.
In June, the Diocese of Brooklyn filed a request for a permit for the “full demolition” of the building in question, the Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Church at 124 Sackman Street, an un-landmarked architectural gem, as Patch first reported.
The filing comes just six years after a previous attempt by the Diocese to demolish the historic church, which it shuttered in 2009 due to low attendance. Responding to outcries to save the historic structure, the Diocese scaled back development plans for the property.
It leased the land to another Catholic organization, Catholic Charities, which signed an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office not to demolish the church, and built an $18 million development consisting of 64 affordable units on part of the land. The plan at the time was to turn the church into a community structure, but that never panned out, according to the Eagle.
In April, Catholic Charities wrote a letter to the State Historic Preservation Office letting officials there know they intended to demolish the church. In response, an executive at the state office requested information about the church’s condition and attempts to save it.
“Please be aware that this office considers the former church to be an exceptional historic property significant in the areas of architecture and social history,” wrote John Bonafide, director of the State Historic Preservation Office’s Technical Preservation Services Bureau.
The neo-classical church was completed in the early 20th century, at a time when the neighborhood was largely Italian-American.
“Catholic Charities has been unable to obtain funding to restore the church, particularly given its condition,” an attorney for the group responded in another letter. “Catholic Charities has concluded for a number of reasons that it is prudent to demolish the church and has arranged private funding for such demolition,” he said.
The request to demolish the church now came as a surprise to local preservationists. But there is hope: The Department of Buildings has not yet granted the group a demo permit. Meanwhile, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering a request to landmark the property.
“We received a request for evaluation for this property, which is under review,” Landmarks Preservation Commission Director of Communications Damaris Olivo told Brownstoner in an email.
The fact that the city has not yet issued a permit may give preservationists wriggle room. (Once permits are issued, typically “there’s not much one can do at that point to save the building other than buy it,” Executive Director of preservationist nonprofit Historic Districts Council Simeon Bankoff told Brownstoner.)
Founder of fledgling organization Preserving East New York (PENY) Zulmilena Then called the new permit filing request “horrible news,” likely reflecting the feelings of many neighborhood preservationists regarding the potential loss of what is a beloved neighborhood asset.
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