Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Our Lady of Loreto is in court
It has arrived in the form of a showdown between a faith-based group determined to level a 109-year-old church to erect affordable housing and residents who want to preserve their neighborhood’s patrimony while providing a hub for Brownsville culture.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bernard Graham issued a temporary stop to the demolition of the magnificent, albeit deteriorating, Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic church on April 26.
A final decision on the historic architectural gem is expected to be handed down on May 9.
Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPOP), which leases the site from the Diocese of Brooklyn, wants to demolish the 1908 Italian Renaissance church at Sackman and Pacific streets to erect an unknown number of “energy-efficient units for low-income families” in a city where almost 60,000 people are homeless.
Members of the Brownsville Cultural Coalition and others long to landmark the church, which was closed to parishioners around 2008, and repurpose the shrine built by an all-Italian team of craftsmen into a cultural center for residents woefully short in community spaces for the arts.
Housing is important, said Miriam Robertson, executive director of the Brownsville Cultural Coalition, but Brownsville also needs to honor and preserve an important and elegant monument to its immigrant roots and history.
The pro se lawsuit that resulted in the current stay of demolition charges that multiple defendants failed to abide by a 2010 “letter of resolution” concerning the property. The letter of resolution stipulates “the Church itself shall not be demolished, reconstructed or damaged,” and was signed by the then CCPOP CEO and other parties. The church, said the resolution, “is not on the portion of the site of the modified project” slated for homes.
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, said a commission spokeswoman, “has carefully reviewed this building several times over the past few years and each time determined not to advance it for further consideration due to a lack of support from critical community stakeholders, including the Council member,” for the district, Rafael Espinal.