It’s hard to find much evidence of the Italian-American atmosphere that was once dominant in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
Only one significant landmark of the old Italian community still stands: Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic Church, at the corner of Sackman and Pacific Streets. Its cornerstone was laid in 1906 and work was completed two years later by the firm of Armezzani, Federici and Sons, of Paterson, N.J., according to a Catholic directory published in 1914.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Local legend says that poor Italian immigrants, many of whom worked in the building trades, devoted nights and weekends to finishing the project.
In recent years the parish has fallen on hard times. With the number of churchgoers dwindling to fewer than 20 on most Sundays, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced in August that it would shutter the church and merge the parish with Our Lady of Presentation, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Now a plan is moving forward to raze the church — along with an unused convent and rectory — to make room for 88 units of housing for low-income residents of the struggling neighborhood. (The parish school has already been demolished.)
Construction of the housing, which will include 11 four-story buildings, is expected to begin in late 2009 with opening slated for 2011, Father Harrington said.
Mary Beth Betts, the research director of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, told Ms. Lepak that landmark status of the church building’s exterior was under review.
A Church That Held the Neighborhood’s Heart
Since this church stands in the way of a development project in an unwealthy section of Brooklyn, it will not be designated.