The pastor of Sheepshead Bay’s oldest house of worship says he’s abandoning a plan to tear down its two iconic steeples, and will now restore the debilitated towers.
“We had a meeting with a new contractor who told us that it’s possible and affordable to restore them,” said Pastor Jay Kyung Kim. “We’re very happy.”
The two 142-year-old United Methodist Church towers are the tallest part of the Ocean Avenue skyline, and many Southern Brooklynites were shocked at the original plan to remove them.
“They’re such a tremendous part of the neig hborhood,” said Bay Improvement Group president Steve Barrison.
Church officials say that the steeples, which are about 80 feet tall, are so deteriorated they could fall off and rip apart the rest of the building. They received permits from the city earlier this year to demolish the spires, which Kim first insisted were too damaged to repair and too costly to replace. Kim would not say how much the demolition or restoration would cost. Neither the construction firm in charge of the demolition, Bencar Building Corp., nor the church’s new contractor, Brune Reich, returned calls for comment.
The possible loss of the steeples prompted one community member to launch a publicity and letter-writing campaign to preserve them. Valerie Landriscina, a Manhattan Beach resident and architect-in-training for RAND Engineering and Architecture, contacted local elected officials and blogged about trying to find alternatives to demolition.
“I’m not a member of the church, but I’ve grown up seeing and appreciating this old structure my whole life,” Landriscina said.
Unstable steeples are a perpetual problem for churches, as their height and limited access makes them difficult to maintain. Steeples can become damaged over time due to weather, and often have to be removed.
Another church in the area with faulty towers, St. Mark’s on Ocean Avenue between Jerome Avenue and Avenue Z, is restoring its steeples, which were damaged in a storm last year.
This is the first major renovation for United Methodist Church, built in 1869 between Voorhies Avenue and Shore Parkway, in more than 85 years.