Landmark this church before it’s too late, Flatbush group urges

July 23, 2019 Lore Croghan
Here’s a view of the historic Flatbush Presbyterian Church from the corner of East 23rd Street and Foster Avenue. Photo courtesy of Respect Brooklyn
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A neighborhood group is running an email campaign and a petition drive to protect recently sold Flatbush Presbyterian Church from the wrecking ball.

The group, called Respect Brooklyn, is asking people to message Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairperson Sarah Carroll, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, who represents the area, and ask that the church building at 494 E. 23rd St. be designated as an individual city landmark.

Its petition says the Landmarks Preservation Commission should “save a bit of our neighborhood for future generations.”

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A spokesperson for Respect Brooklyn told the Brooklyn Eagle that “it is preposterous and inequitable that the last individual landmark around here, the Avenue H Station House, was designated over 15 years ago. If this over-120-year-old former church is not landmarked, it has to call into question the commitment of the agency [LPC] to its mission under the leadership of the current mayor.”

Respect Brooklyn is “very concerned” that demolition is planned because of the recent sale of the church building, the spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, the Presbytery of New York City sold the property for $3.325 million, city Finance Department records indicate. Israel Rosenbaum was the authorized signatory for purchaser 494 East 23rd Street LLC. Patch was the first publication to report the sale of the church building.

Here’s an up-close look at some details of Flatbush Presbyterian Church’s facade. Photo courtesy of Respect Brooklyn
Here’s an up-close look at some details of Flatbush Presbyterian Church’s facade. Photo courtesy of Respect Brooklyn

As of yet, the new owner has not filed a city Buildings Department application for a demolition permit.

Flatbush Presbyterian Church is also known as the Flatbush Church of the Redeemer, because that was the building’s most recent occupant. Two New York architects, John J. Petit and Hobart B. Upjohn, designed the Gothic-style chapel, Respect Brooklyn wrote in a December letter to LPC Chairperson Carroll asking that her agency put the church onto its calendar for landmark designation consideration.

The letter called the church “a striking example of Gothic architecture” whose “gorgeously intricate crocketed spires were meant to invoke the divine on earth.”

The church was constructed in 1898. An addition was built in 1922.

Last spring, the commission told Respect Brooklyn in an email that “more study” was needed to determine the church’s significance in the neighborhood’s development history and that a study of this sort was “not currently among the agency’s citywide priorities.”

The Eagle asked the commission on Monday if it would reconsider that decision in light of the building’s sale and demolition threat. A spokesperson said the agency’s position remains unchanged.

“We appreciate the importance of the building to its community, but in a city the size of New York, with its many religious structures, the commission must be very selective in choosing examples of this building type for consideration as individual landmarks,” she said.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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