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It looks like another Brooklyn church is likely to become apartments. Calvary Spanish Pentecostal Church, aka Calvary Assembly of God, has sold seven properties on Suydam and Hart Streets to an LLC with a Madison Avenue address for $2,980,000.

The lots include the church’s main building and a neighboring frame house at 112-116 Suydam Street, as well as a parking lot made of five adjacent lots at 118-120 Suydam and 605, 609 and 611 Hart Street, according to a deed filed yesterday. The church and frame house alone have a buildable square footage of 17,314 on a 75 foot by 95 foot square lot.

The whole parcel is a sizable piece of land in the middle of Bushwick, about a block from the Central Avenue M train stop. GMAP

Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

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Hundreds of Brooklyn religious leaders attended a recent meeting sponsored by Borough President Eric Adams about how faith-based organizations can earn money and develop their properties by selling air and land rights to developers, according to a story in DNAinfo. It’s an idea that resonated with many of the borough’s religious leaders as they face declining congregations, fundraising challenges and budgetary pressures while working to expand social services to meet the needs of those left behind in the recession.

“You are land-rich but cash-poor. The largest amount of housing potential in Brooklyn lies with you,” Pastor Gilford Monrose, director of the Borough President’s faith-based initiatives, told attendees.

Since many churches own historic buildings and have parking lots and other properties, developers are often interested in the properties. Deacon Dennis Mathis of Glover Memorial Baptist Church at 2134 Dean Street in Crown Heights (pictured above) said he wants to develop affordable housing on a church-owned parking lot and use the proceeds to expand its social services. “Any profit made from the deal will go toward expanding our soup kitchen and food pantry and might allow us to add after-school programs for youth,” he told DNAinfo. Developers have offered between $200,000 and $300,000 for the lot, he said.

A reverend at another Crown Heights church, Brooklyn Christian Center Church at 1061 Atlantic Avenue, said the church has a development plan in the works and came to the conference to learn how how to keep control of the property. Also discussed at the conference was how churches can work with city agencies to develop affordable housing.

Throughout the borough, churches have been demolished for new buildings and in some cases converted to condos. At least a dozen such projects are in the works now.

Adams has previously said he believes developing church property can help increase affordable housing in the borough. Do you agree?

Dozens of Brooklyn Churches Looking to Sell Their Land [DNA]
Church Conversion Coverage [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

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The Jamaica Elevated ended service between 121st street and 168th Street in 1977, as a new subway was built to Parsons Boulevard-Archer Avenue that opened in 1988. Removing the dark tracks that shadowed the avenue, though, allowed the old Valencia Theater at 165-11 Jamaica Avenue, formerly best seen from an elevated platform, to be glimpsed by everyone.

 

The theatre, designed by John Eberson in a Baroque Spanish style, opened in 1929. It has an intricately fashioned brick and terra cotta façade designed to be viewed from up close: the platforms of the Jamaica el were a few feet away. You really have to linger for several minutes to take in all the cherub heads, seashells and other decorative elements. It was one of five Loews “Wonder Theatres” that opened in 1929 and 1930, with the others being the Kings in Flatbush, the Paradise on Grand Concourse in the Bronx, the Jersey in Jersey City, and the Loews 175th on Broadway in Washington Heights.

 

The Valencia seated nearly 3,600, featured goldfish pools in the lobby, wrought iron railings, an auditorium resembling a festive Spanish garden, air conditioning as early as the 1950s, and pipe organ music until 1965. As with many Loews theatres, clouds and twinkling stars were projected across the dark theatre ceiling. The theatre presented elaborate stage shows until 1935, when they were replaced by double features. The Valencia’s first feature film presented was MGM’s “White Shadows in the South Seas,” a semi-documentary filmed on location in Tahiti; the last, in 1977, was Columbia’s “The Greatest,” the first Muhammad Ali biopic, starring Ali himself along with Ernest Borgnine and Robert Duvall.

A rival theatre not nearly as ornate, the Alden, stood directly across the street; no trace remains of it. The Valencia is now a church, the Tabernacle of Prayer, which thankfully has retained most of Eberson’s detail inside and out.

To see the interior is really a treat — most of the lavish appointments and detail have been lovingly preserved by the church. Periodically, tours are given. Contact Sister Forbes at 718-657-4210 ext. 20 to find out if there’s a scheduled tour anytime soon.

Kevin Walsh is the webmaster of Forgotten New York. A book of the same name is also available.

 

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With its blue dome, the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at 14-65 Clintonville Street is one of several surprising architectural gems among the tract housing of Whitestone. At first glance, it appears to be two large Quonset huts making an “X” shape, topped out by an onion dome in one of the purest shades of blue imaginable.

As for Clintonville Street, it is is so named because it runs through a section of Whitestone that used to be named for DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), an early New York State polymath who held every important political office save Vice President or President. He served in the New York State Assembly and as a State Senator (1798-1802; 1806-1811); as U.S. Senator from New York (1802-1803); as a three-term New York City mayor (1803-1815); as New York State Governor (1817-1822); and indeed ran unsuccessfully for U.S. President as a Federalist against incumbent President James Madison in 1812. Among other accomplishments, his influence was elemental in getting the Erie Canal constructed.

DeWitt Clinton lived in two of Queens residences, particularly during his time as mayor. His mansion in Maspeth stood on today’s 58th Street north of 56th Road until it burned down in 1933. He also summered in Whitestone — the part of it close to the East River at about 151st street, 7th Avenue and Leggett Place.

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Queens isn’t often recognized for its architecture, but we do have plenty of fascinating buildings. Actually, it’s fitting that some of the most noteworthy architecture in the borough reflects our incredible cultural and religious diversity. Here’s a look at some of the churches, temples, and other houses of worship that punctuate our neighborhoods with beauty.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In Whitestone, the futuristic St. Nicholas Orthodox Church (GMAP) is all curves: there’s a metallic barrel roof, oval windows and accents, and a bulbous, bright blue onion dome. The Russian Orthodox house of worship was designed by Sergey Padukow of New Jersey and built in 1968, and continues to catch our attention with its retro spaceship design.