Brookland Capital wants to remove Tiffany windows from St. Luke’s Church; Landmarks Preservation Commission says not so fast
Condo conversion is planned for Clinton Hill landmark
The fate of stained-glass windows designed by famous artist Louis Comfort Tiffany is hanging in the balance.
Brookland Capital is seeking the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s permission to remove four stained-glass windows made by Tiffany Studios from shut-down St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church — as well as three windows by prominent designer J&R Lamb Studios.
The developer wants to remove the windows as part of its plan to convert the Clinton Hill Historic District church and its parish house into eight residential condos, consultant Rick Azar said Tuesday at a city Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing.
Azar said the developer wants to remove the historically important windows from the late 19th-century neo-Gothic church at 257 Washington Ave., restore them and try to “find the right home” for them.
The developer wants to get rid of the seven Tiffany and J&R Lamb Studios windows because they depict religious figures.
Brookland wants to replace the seven historically important windows and all other stained-glass windows that depict religious iconography with clear leaded-glass windowpanes.
A report about the church’s windows by architecture firm ROART says that “religious iconography” makes the windows “not appropriate for building conversion.”
Brookland also wants to cut new window openings in the church’s facade and put skylights on the roof.
Several commissioners questioned whether it’s necessary to remove the Tiffany and J&R Lamb Studios windows to avoid offending potential condo purchasers’ religious beliefs.
“These are not just normal windows. These are extraordinary,” Commissioner Frederick Bland said. “The [developer] needs to give a compelling reason the stained glass must be removed to sell apartments,” Bland said. “Some buyers might find the windows a reason to buy the apartments.”
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron suggested the developer leave the stained-glass windows in place and find other ways to bring light and air into the condos.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum said the artistic windows are part of the church building’s “integrity” and should be saved.
Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy suggested that if the developer removes the windows from their frames they could be kept elsewhere on the property.
In the end, the commission did not vote on Brookland’s condo-conversion plan.
Instead, Commission Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan instructed the developer’s consultant and architects to explore the issue of retaining the stained-glass windows and also come up with a plan for restoring and preserving them off-site.
Brookland Capital paid $8.8 million for church and parish house
Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was the son of Tiffany & Co.’s founder, was one of America’s preeminent artists. He worked from the 1870s through the 1920s and was renowned for his stained-glass church and synagogue windows.
Stained-glass maker J&R Lamb Studios has been in existence for more than 160 years — and is still in business today.
In 2015, Brookland Capital bought St. Luke’s church building and the parish house, whose address is 230 Hall St. The seller was the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, city Finance Department records indicate. The developer paid $8.8 million, those records show.
The Lutherans sold the property because St. Luke’s congregation had shrunk to 30 members and the church needed up to $10 million in repairs, the New York Daily News reported in 2014.
St. Luke’s rock-faced limestone church building was designed by important ecclesiastical architect J.W. Walter and constructed in 1894. The combination Gothic- and Romanesque-style brick parish house was built in 1924.
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