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150-year-old Boerum Hill Church to be Demolished

BOERUM HILL — The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, a gothic revival building that is nearly 150 years old, will be demolished in the next year or so, said the priest in charge of the site.

The church is in severe state of disrepair, said the Rev. Christopher Ballard of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew and project manager of the Redeemer Project, which is dedicated to finding a suitable replacement for the doomed church building.

Ballard announced that the church would be demolished in the next year at a Boerum Hill Association general meeting on Thursday evening.

The structure was partially damaged by the rumblings of the subways that run beside it and partly because there just hasn’t been much of an attempt to maintain the building in the last 30 to 60 years, Ballard said.

It would cost the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which owns the building, at least $8 million to repair the church enough for it to be inhabitable, and nearly $20 million to make it usable, said Ballard. The reverend admitted, however, that the church has not made any efforts to raise the money to make the repairs.

“Our focus and attention has long been on keeping the walls up as opposed to serving humanity,” Ballard said.

In the face of declining membership and a crumbling building, the church closed down and the congregation has since begun worshipping at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, located at 520 Clinton St.

Meanwhile, the Church of the Redeemer building has largely been neglected, suffering an overgrown lawn and a leaking roof, Ballard admitted to Boerum Hill residents at the meeting.

“It’s been a quiet church,” said Howard Kollins, president of the Boerum Hill Association. “It’s located in a dark and somewhat threatening corner. We were trying to get additional lighting on the street, and the lawns weren’t being mowed.

"It’s not very active and it’s not in the greatest state of repair.”

When a resident asked why the diocese had let the building deteriorate to the point of demolition, rather than maintaining it over the years, Ballard called it deferred maintenance, where maintenance and repair of the building is put off for so long that it becomes irreparable, he said.

The Diocese did not believe the church was worth repairing because the congregation has dwindled over several decades, from a congregation of about 1500 to about 200, Ballard said.

In the next 20 months, the church will be demolished to make way for a mixed-use building, Ballard said. The new building will be used for residential, commercial and religious purposes, though the church has yet to decide which religious institution will be moving in.

The church is holding a deconsecration ceremony on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. in anticipation of the impending demolition.

“There are so many people involved, so many members of the community that are suffering at the loss of this building,” said Diane Lewis, a resident of Boerum Hill who attended the general meeting on Thursday evening. “The community will sorely miss the structure. The congregation is the most important factor.”