Seven years after the beloved “Green Church” at the intersection of Ovington and Fourth Avenues was demolished, a new, smaller and far more modern church is finally being erected on a portion of the site.
The new Bay Ridge United Methodist Church – which will front on Ovington Avenue on a corner of the original site that had been retained by the congregation when the property was sold in 2008 – will have a sleek white exterior with a pitched roof and a soaring tower, seat approximately 100 people and also have underground parking for about 10 cars, according to the church’s pastor, the Reverend Robert Emerick, who says he hopes that the new building will be completed in about a year and a half.
It will have been a long wait for the congregation, which now numbers approximately 40 active members. Ever since demolishing the old sanctuary and selling the bulk of the property in 2008 to a developer, who planned to put market rate housing there, but who sold the land to the Department of Education for a school after the economic downturn, they have been worshipping at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, at Fourth Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway.
“We have basically been involved in trying to get the new church built ever since the old one was demolished,” Emerick told this paper, explaining that “it took quite a while to get the plans through the Department of Buildings. It took a long time but we have finally started to dig.”
Among the new sanctuary’s features are solar panels on the roof. “We wanted to use renewable energy to the extent it was available even if it wasn’t a cost savings,” Emerick explained, adding that, as it turned out, solar has “become more and more affordable.”
The new sanctuary, he added, is “more in line with the congregation’s needs at this point in time.” And, while Emerick acknowledges missing the old sanctuary, a distinctive 109-year-old building clad in green-tinged stone which community members fought passionately though unsuccessfully to save, he said that the upkeep had been extremely expensive.
“It was literally falling down,” Emerick said. “When we got to the point of needing a new roof, it wouldn’t have been possible, and apart from that, the stone was literally crumbling, so we did what we had to do in order for the congregation to keep going, and we have been able to do a lot more in terms of our mission and service to the world than we ever could have before.”
While those who tried to save the local landmark would dispute Emerick’s assessment (at the time, various deals were put together by Councilmember Vincent Gentile that advocates said would have enabled the congregation to make the necessary repairs and keep the old building intact, as well as providing a funding stream that would have enabled the congregation to pursue its mission), for the leader of the group that fought to save the church, it is time to move on.
Kathy Walker, the co-chair of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, told this paper, “I miss the church, the beauty of it, the history of it. I miss what it was for me as a kid going past it, but I’m glad there’s a school there and, if there will be another building where people can worship and bring the spirit of forgiveness and joy and charity, it’s a good thing.
“We got very connected around a cause to try to save something beautiful,” Walker went on. “It hurt losing it, but we have to accept it. I’m happy we did what we did – fought for something we believed in.”
The old church had been placed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places in 1999 at the request of the congregation, which previously had asked the community to help raise funds to restore the clock tower. Subsequently, the intersection was named Bay Ridge United Methodist Church Corner, also at the request of the congregation, which dates back to 1830.
When designed, the new school, P.S./I.S. 30, incorporated the old church’s historic rose window into its façade.