Glad Tidings Tabernacle church, under demolition last month, and below, during happier times. (Lane Johnson, above; newpennstation.org, below)
We were happy to see the New York Times story today on the challenges facing churches that were once synagogues. Here's the story and an interesting audio slideshow. The story has shot up to the top of the most-emailed list, and I'm not surprised.
We've had a tremendous response to our longtime coverage on preservation as part of our Endangered NYC series. I first wrote about churches in our 10 to Save report back in December 2006, and the threats against houses of worship only increased in 2007, so we made sacred spaces a category in our second annual survey last month.
The issues range from neglect to impoverished congregations to real-estate speculation, but houses of worship are sitting targets all around town. Here at our offices, were are reminded of it every day when we pass the sad spectacle of the slow demolition of Glad Tiding Tabernacle Church, just next door. It was only a few months ago a Romanesque Revival treasure from 1868, but it was sold for $31 million and is now facing a high-rise future.
Here's what we wrote on churches in December 2006:
The city's august houses of worship are suddenly a vanishing breed. Undermined by a range of factors, the churches are now seen as ripe for the picking by developers. The battles to save St. Brigid's in the East Village and St. Thomas the Apostle in Harlem have garnered headlines, but numerous other churches across the city are quietly facing similar struggles, such as the striking First Baptist Church in the City of New York on the Upper West Side. "Aside from losing beautiful buildings and an important part of our history, it's going to change the face of neighborhoods," Breen said. [St. Thomas: Address: 260 W. 118th St. Built: 1907; St. Brigid's: Address: Avenue B and East 8th Street, Built: Late 1840s; First Baptist Church of the City of New York Address: West 79th Street and Broadway, Built: 1894]
And a year later, Lana Bortolot told a similar sad tale, made only worse by the passage of time.
Dwindling congregations and funds make religious buildings a particular target for demolition. The French Romanesque West-Park Presbyterian (1890) at 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue has already agreed to sell its chapel in exchange for renovations to the main church. A 21-story condominium tower would be built where the chapel now stands.
In Maspeth, community advocacy groups are fighting to save St. Saviour's, a 1847 Richard Upjohn church, which is scheduled to be razed for a housing development --the parson's house is already gone, as are many old-growth trees that served as a de facto park for this area.
In Brooklyn, the 1899 Bay Ridge United Methodist--called the "Green Church" because of its distinctive stone facade--is in contract for $10 million with plans for a condominium in its place.
In the Penn Station area alone: St. John the Baptist (207 W. 30th St. ), Church of St. Michael (414 W. 34th St.), St. Francis of Assisi Church (136 W. 31st St.) and Beth Israel West Side Jewish Center (347 W. 34th St.). At press time, demolition was under way at the 1867 Glad Tidings Tabernacle (325 W. 33rd St.).
-- Rolando Pujol