This story is a product of the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY), supported by the Pinkerton Foundation. Learn more about the program here.
After almost 100 years, the aged red brick building with detailed stained glass windows on the corner of Cortelyou Rroad and Ocean Avenue—named Baptist Church of the Redeemer—is slated for demolition, to be replaced with a nine-story residence, despite local efforts to preserve the church.
The century-old building designed by architect Frank J. Helmle has deteriorated, forcing the owners to knock it down and build a new structure, they say. The plan has caused an uproar with some in the community, and a local preservationist submitted a request in March for the church to be evaluated for landmarking in order to stop the demolition.
But the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) recently evaluated the church, and “determined that it does not rise to the level of significance necessary for consideration as a potential individual landmark,” the agency told City Limits in a statement.
“We appreciate the importance of the building to its community, but in a city the size of New York, with its many religious structures, the Commission must be very selective in choosing examples of this building type for designation as individual landmarks,” the LPC’s statement said.
Baptist Church of the Redeemer is partnering with the Mutual Housing Association of New York, an affordable housing developer, to rebuild the site—replacing the current property with a nine-story supportive housing building, with the church residing on the bottom, according to Pastor Sharon E. Williams.
“When it became apparent that the building had deteriorated so much that it could no longer be used as an instrument for God’s work in our community we visoned together that it was necessary to ‘develop’ the property,” Williams told City Limits in an email.
But the plan has elicited worry from some of its neighbors, who feel there’s already enough supportive housing in the area and are concerned that the nine-story building will disrupt the colonial look of the neighborhood.
“Once there’s a nine-story building, in 10 years there will be a 13-story building, and then a 20-story building, then we will be living in Downtown Brooklyn,” Eileen McGill, an 18-year resident and vice president of the Beverly Square East Block Association said at a Community Board 14 meeting earlier this month.
The proposed development will take approximately two years to build, according to Williams, who said the new building aims to provide homes for low-income residents.
“It is primarily for poor people who need housing,” the pastor said. “The church will, of course, have new space for its activities, but that is not the main purpose of this development.”