Now here's an interesting article:
On Churches, Some See Increased Preservation Effort
Except in Queens, where they can't be torn down fast enough to make way for housing, be it luxury condos or senior apartments. This happens right after the LPC looks at the request to evaluate it for designation, sees a Queens address, has a good laugh, and chucks it in their circular file.
Photo of Astoria Presbyterian Church from Greater Astoria Historical Society
Start saving some Queens churches!
Start with St. Saviour's!
Are you listening you creep of a faux councilmember?
Once again a community group's efforts to draw attention to the devastastion this totally out of scale building (9 stories on a busy street of 3 story buildings) was crushed by a hostile press.
The minister, who has for quite some time been drawing a full time salary for a church attendance of 20 or so people has a disability in that he is blind.
So of course, the Daily News attacked the community and showed the poor fellow with a huge picture of him with cane and dark glasses posed in front the building striking a dramatic pose in his efforts to 'save' the congregation against the community.
Who are they to have the terminity to express an opinion against a massive wall in their back yard?
Myth: The church has envisioned this be for the Astoria community as well as the congregation members.
Realty: The Church has never taken a survey of its neighbors to ask their opinion. Nor is the Astoria community active in the church. Only 20-30 people attend Church each Sunday (except for the first Sunday in each month, when a Korean congregation from Flushing joins the church). The minister gets a full time salary, benefits and housing in the parsonage.
Approximately 80 others + the minister will take residence in the proposed building. The impact of the unwanted building in the community, does not merit the project. The majority of 32nd and 33rd Street residents are unaware of the Church’s plan to replace the Church with a 10-story building. They will be alarmed, under any circumstances.
Myth: The design of the new church will be appealing to all and to serve the community.
Realty: The majority of 32rd and 33rd Street residents will not find a 10-story building, low-income unit appealing. If they are not already attending church, they will not be moved to attend in the proposed new building.
Myth: While wishing to keep the building as it is, the cost in NYC is prohibitive and frankly, not able to serve the needs of the community as it is now.
Realty: The Church has determined “the needs of the community” without involving the community in their assessment. It has failed in its mission to serve their religious needs. The church should be asking itself:
- Why have we failed to attract congregation members? How can we share our historic building with the community, and with other churches and community groups, to save it? Can the county purchase the buildings and rent them back to us and a consortium of religious, spiritual and community support organizations? Why have we not explored these steps?
Myth: This church has been working on this project for going on three years with the result of a proposal that includes Hanoc Corporation and the approval of an initial fact finding committee of the Presbytery (next level of Presbyterian organization over individual congregations).
While opportunity for other organizations and people to propose viable alternatives backed with resources to carry an alternative forward has existed, no other option has been presented by anyone.
Realty: The Church has deliberately withheld making information about their plans to the public, knowing it will cause controversy and community protest.
The community learned about the church’s intent to develop in January 2004, when anonymous congregation members sent copies of development plans to local newspapers.
When the Queens Chronicle asked the Church minister about the plans, he lied, stating: “There is no plan to demolish the church.” (1-15-04 issue)
Church congregation members were first informed of the church’s interest in exploring development of the property, in summer 2003.
Myth: The affordable housing that is being suggested will help up to a proposed 90 older citizens have housing while keeping the neighborhood beautiful and increasing surrounding community property values.
Realty: A 10-story, low-income housing unit will:
- decrease property values
- drive current renters (renting at prime rates), from the area
- increase taxes
- cast a permanent shadow across much of 32nd & 33rd Streets
- destroy trees, block open views & airspace
- invite crime, graffiti and traffic jams (we have seen time and time again when long time homeowners when forced to live in the shadow of a towering wall will move out and less desirable move in)
There are many other available locations in Astoria for low-income housing of 90 seniors. LICA opposes the height, scale and density of the building on a residential street where the average building height is 4 stories.
Myth: Our church will still be able to be housed in the development which is the primary reason for our doing this project to begin with - to increase ministry to it's (30) members and help the community as we progress. The Presbyterian Denomination is one of outreach to see and understand and to relate to all people while maintaining a foundation of theology from which we find to be "an iron rod"(taking from the Mormon theology).
Realty: The Presbyterian Church has taken this step not to broaden its community outreach, but because it is running out of money. Of the 101 Presbyterian Churches located in New York City, 75% are in trouble due to declining membership and revenues. If the Presbyterian Church of Astoria succeeds in this endeavor, countless others will follow suit. The community rejects and denounces the motives behind the Church’s professed community improvement.
The community demands downzoning on the street and in all LIC areas where churches and non-profit buildings presently reside. We demand an immediate moratorium freeze on the Church’s plans.
Someone should investigate the Sacrd Sites program at the Conservency. They write grants for the 5 boroughs and spend them in one.
Give the money to Queens. We can use it.
And don't met with developers behind our backs undermining our efforts.
All it does it adds another log on the fire to destroy the authority of the Manhatten-centric preservation clique.
Getting phone calls from outraged church members around the country about this project (recently featured in Christian Science Monitor.) It seems as this Astoria project is now a model for well paid underworked pastors from around the country to let their buildings fall apart, then go into real estate.
Much cleaner (and salary sustaining) than getting involved in all those dirty grubby details of parishioners lives and begging them for money to get paid.
Well if that is true, it is yet another reason for Astorians to be proud of their community. Not only are they the lab for all the development ills in NYC, but now the entire country can look at them for a model to admire.
Those clowns have to be stopped!
One alternative was never mentioned. The local governing body of the Presbyterian Chuch USA here in Queens can simply vote to close the church, i.e., disband the congregation and sell the building.
Twenty or so people cannot sustain a structure that was designed for a few hundred. On a deeper level, those twenty or so elderly folks probably do not provide a ministry for the community beyond themselves. Closure may be the best and most courageous route for them to take.
The church has always been THREATENING that if they don't get their way they will sell to a developer.
That is BS. Hate to say that languague to a church but those bums (words chosen carefully) deserve it.
I always like when a church threatens a community. It may explain why they did not grow, and will never grow.
Their chances of survival at this point is slim to nil. This divided a tiny congregation, and the years that it will take to build a new building means they will be gypsies renting space.
Even in the new building, what would happen if there is an event in the senior center, and a funeral? Who would have to wait?
1. The Presebyterian church, through self indulgant activity has alienated their congregations (in a nation where religion is thriving. They want to maintain salaries in bloated presbytery, so they go into real estate.
2. Churches are exempt from a whole host of approvals. In other words, they can get away with murder and build totally out of scale that a private developer cannot dream of.
3. The land is donated for charity. They are likely breaking the deed if they went commericial which means the land reverts back to the family of the donor.
4. They can always sell to another congregation. Right now another Presbyterian church (that is thriving) is meeting at the Astoria Center of Isreal) and would jump at the chance to take this over. Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, a host of churches would jump at the chance to take over that property.
Precisely my point! In my opinion, the presbytery, or local governing unit of the Presbyterian Church USA, ought seriously consider to close and disband the current congregation, and then sell the building to a thriving and functional congregation of either the same or another Christian denomination.
I happen to attend the Astoria Community Church, a growing five-year-old congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (not the same as the PCUSA mentioned above), and a daughter church of the renowned Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. They would literally jump at the chance to own a building in the Astoria area in order to house and expand a growing spiritual movement in Northwest Queens. ACC averages over 150 people at its Sunday morning Service.
A church ultimately is not about buildings and institutional survival, but rather a church is a spiritual community of people committed to common spiritual purposes. Once those purposes are either compromised or lost, a church becomes a rather sad caricature of itself and ought seriously to consider disbanding. On the other hand, a focus on those purposes help ensure a vibrancy and growth that hopefully avoids the sad state of affairs that is Astoria Presbyterian Church and quite a number of the old "Mainline" Protestant churches in NYC.
Alas, I strongly doubt that the PCUSA presbytery will take such an action, much less sell the building to a church such as Astoria Community!
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