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Historic Church Looks to Raise $4.7M for Renovations

By Eddie Small | May 12, 2014 7:33am
 St. Anselm's Church is trying to raise $4.7 million for restoration efforts.
St. Anselm's Church
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MOTT HAVEN — A 122-year-old church in The Bronx that was modeled after the Hagia Sophia is trying to raise $4.7 million for renovations to repair its roof, paintings, windows and exterior.

St. Anselm's Church, at 685 Tinton Ave., is attempting to do a complete restoration of the building, said the Rev. Antonio Palacios, who has been the pastor for 11 years.

The church has raised roughly $70,000 towards the campaign so far. It officially started raising the cash about two years ago.

One of the fundraising challenges has been St. Anselm's location, as it is in a relatively poor area of the city, said Luis Laboy, president of the parish's Holy Name Society and a member of the restoration committee.

Mott Haven has a median income of just $16,800, and 65.3 percent of its residents live in poverty, according to a 2013 report on community district needs from the Department of City Planning. The church tends to raise money by the hundreds rather than the millions, according to Palacios.

"I feel confident that it can be done," said Laboy, "but we’re going to need help from the rest of the city."

St. Anselm's was built in 1892 by a community of German monks. It was modeled after Hagia Sophia in Turkey, and was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Park Service describes it as having played "a prominent role in the spiritual, social and educational lives of those in the surrounding neighborhood." However, the church is not a New York City landmark, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The church has brought on conservator R. Dario Cano A. to take charge of the restoration process. He was excited to improve the church for a new generation of parishioners and was particularly impressed with the multiple cultures represented in its interior decorations, including Greek, Italian, French, German and Turkish.

"It's exceptional, beautiful," he said.

St. Anselm's outlines some of the issues it is facing on its website. They include damages to the church's works of art due to leaks and condensation, structural damage to its dome and cracks in the roof caused by a cross made of concrete that weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on St. Anselm's. Its exact role in the restoration process is unclear.

Palacios hoped that restoring St. Anselm's would attract more tourists to the borough.

"This is a way to help the Bronx, to remove the idea that this is a dangerous place to come," he said.

Laboy described the place of worship as one of the defining characteristics of the borough.

"It would be a shame not to restore it. It really would," he said.

"It’d be a shame for the country, for the state, for the city and for the borough.

"We have Yankee Stadium; we’ve got the Botanical Garden; and we have St. Anselm’s Church."