Brownsville

Our Lady of Loreto is a pile of rubble

Mock funeral will be held Saturday for historic Brownsville church

October 13, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gone, Gone, Gone: There's a hole in the ground where Our Lady of Loreto Church in Brownsville stood for more than a century. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

It’s too late to save her. It’s not too late to mourn her.

There will be a mock funeral on Saturday for Loreto — Our Lady of Loreto.

In the blink of an eye, a demolition crew has obliterated the historic Catholic church at 126 Sackman St. in the Ocean Hill section of Brownsville.

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There’s nothing left but rubble.

This Brooklyn Eagle reporter snapped photos of Our Lady of Loreto today with a monopod — which is like a selfie stick, but sturdier — to get clear views of the demolition site over a protective fence that shields it from public view.

All that remains of the stunning century-old church that stood on the site are its front steps and a bit of its foundation.

In response to the church’s destruction, the Brownsville Cultural Coalition has issued an invitation to the general public to gather outside 126 Sackman St. on Saturday for a memorial service. It will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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The invite suggests that attendees dress in black, the color of mourning.

Eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places

The coalition fought unsuccessfully to have the neoclassical Roman Renaissance-style church designated as a city landmark and adaptively reused as a community cultural center.

Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corp., which holds a long-term lease on the property, plans to construct low-income housing on the church site.

An 11th-hour legal challenge temporarily halted its demolition, but ultimately did not prevail.

The Catholic charity had signed an agreement with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and other government agencies in 2010 that required the church building to be left intact and allowed Our Lady of Loreto’s rectory to be razed to make way for the construction of low-income apartments.

Both the church and the rectory had been declared eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

But in a decision rendered last summer, Justice Ellen Spodek of the state Supreme Court in Brooklyn observed that the agreement made by the Catholic charitable group stipulated it should make good-faith efforts to preserve and adaptively reuse Our Lady of Loreto “should funding become available for its restoration.”
Funding to restore the church building did not become available, though, the judge noted in her decision.

Our Lady of Loreto was constructed as a refuge for Italian immigrants in an era when they were discriminated against by Catholics of other ethnicities in New York City. In some parishes, the Italians were required to sit in the basement or the back of the church, separated from other worshipers, during Mass.

Our Lady of Loreto’s architect, Adriano Armezzani, was an Italian immigrant. The other artists and artisans who collaborated in the church’s construction were Italian immigrants, too.


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