The historic St. John’s Church, aka the Church of the Generals, is on the market.
The property at 9818 Fort Hamilton Parkway, which was vacated by the congregation in September, 2014, has sat fallow, with many community members – who want to see the venerable building preserved – concerned that the sanctuary, which has connections to such historic figures as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, would be torn down.
Now, along with six other properties belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, it is for sale through a Long Island-based real estate agent, Lauren Perricone at Commercial Realty Nation/Laffey in East Norwich, New York. Perricone, according to her email, is the real estate company’s house of worship specialist.
The 12,500-square-foot property is currently occupied by the church and a parish house and rectory. The asking price is $2,950,000.
John Heffernan, whose Rhapsody Players performed at the church until it shut its doors, expressed his disappointment at “losing that beautiful space.” Citing its long and storied history, which extended from before the Civil War and included ties with “generals right up to NATO,” Heffernan said he was wary as to who would buy the property and “what would be put there.
“It’s still a little surreal that it’s going,” he admitted. “It’s just a shame, another slice of Bay Ridge that disappears.”
Zoning for the property is relatively low-density. The R4B designation carries with it a relatively modest floor area ratio of .9, the zoning district permits only one and two family homes, and there is a height limitation to as-of-right construction of 24 feet.
While the current church was built in 1900, the parish dates back to 1834, when Bay Ridge was known as Yellow Hook. The church was closed by the Episcopal Diocese, according to a statement released in 2014, because of declining membership and increasing expense, as the venerable structure required costly maintenance. The congregation now worships at Christ Church, at Ridge Boulevard and 74th Street, which also has experienced a shrinking congregation. Efforts to landmark the building have not met with success to date.
This is not the first endangered church in the Bay Ridge area. Perhaps most famously, the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, beloved as the neighborhood’s “Green Church,” was demolished in 2008, despite widespread community effort to save the structure, which once stood at the corner of Ovington and Fourth Avenues. While a developer bought the site to build housing, economic conditions put the kibosh on that plan, and the site was sold to New York City, which built a school there.
Also demolished was the structure built as the Salem Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church on Ovington Avenue between Fourth and Third Avenues, and most recently occupied by Salam Arabic Lutheran Church. It was sold by the Lutheran Synod and taken down in 2012 to be replaced by housing.
In addition, Zion Lutheran Church on Fourth Avenue at 63rd Street, just over the border in Sunset Park, is currently on borrowed time. It closed for worship in 2014 and the New York Metropolitan Lutheran Synod is negotiating with the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) to sell the property to them. At a community meeting held last month, it was revealed — to strong local opposition — that FAC proposes putting a combination of senior and affordable housing on the site, which also is planned to have a ground floor health center.