Bay Ridge

Shut-down St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bay Ridge might be preserved

Eye on Real Estate: Sale of 'The Church of the Generals' is expected to close soon

November 30, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There's a “For Sale” sign outside Saint John's Episcopal Church, but a buyer has been found for the historic Bay Ridge property. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Brooklyn’s historic “Church of the Generals” might be saved from demolition.

That’s the word from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which is selling vacant St. John’s Church in the Fort Hamilton section of Bay Ridge.

Preservationists, politicians and neighborhood residents fear the distinctive Arts and Crafts-style church and parsonage at 9818 Fort Hamilton Parkway will be torn down after they are sold to make room for new-from-the-ground-up residential development.    

Possibly their fears will not be realized.

“The purchaser has indicated a willingness to preserve the buildings,” Episcopal Diocese of Long Island spokeswoman Denise Fillion told the Brooklyn Eagle via email.

The sale of the property is pending. The Diocese hopes to close the deal in the next two months, Fillion said.

Important military figures who worshiped at St. John’s 1890s-vintage church building include General Matthew B. Ridgway, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe in the 1950s, who attended services early in his military career.

Before the Civil War, two men who became Confederate generals worshiped at the church building it replaced, whose cornerstone had been laid in 1835.

One of them was Robert E. Lee, who was stationed at the neighboring Fort Hamilton military base. The other was Stonewall Jackson, who was baptized at St. John’s in 1849.  

The fate of the Fort Hamilton Parkway property has been uncertain since 2014, when the closing of St. John’s Episcopal Church was announced. Declining Sunday-service attendance numbers and $1.5 million-plus worth of deferred maintenance were cited as reasons for the shut-down.

St. John’s congregation was merged with that of Christ Church Bay Ridge — which is located at 7301 Ridge Blvd., a 40-minute walk north of St. John’s.

In an effort to protect St. John’s from the wrecking ball, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay-Ridge-Dyker-Heights-Bensonhurst) campaigned to have the property designated as a city landmark.

He did not succeed.

If it had been designated, the church couldn’t have been demolished or had changes made to its exterior without the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s permission.

The Diocese put St. John’s on the market last year. The deal to sell it has apparently been in the works for some time.

In December 2015, the Trustees of the Estate Belonging to the Diocese of Long Island voted to authorize the sale of the property for $2.95 million “in accordance with the term sheet,” a journal for a recent diocesan convention says.

A term sheet is a non-binding agreement that can lead to a sale contract.

By the way, $2.95 million had been the asking price for St. John’s, according to info posted online by Lauren Perricone of Laffey Real Estate, a broker who marketed the property for the Diocese.

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