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Block Association Fights to Save Harlem Church Slated for Demolition

By Gustavo Solis | August 20, 2015 4:48pm
 Diane Eamtrakul, who has lived across the church since 2002, would like to see the new owners of the building preserve the church's historic facade, she said.
Diane Eamtrakul, who has lived across the church since 2002, would like to see the new owners of the building preserve the church's historic facade, she said.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — Residents are fighting to preserve an abandoned church that’s slated for demolition on west 122nd Street.

The Second Friendship Baptist Church sold the century-old former horse stable to a private buyer for $1.5 million in July. Later that month, the Department of Buildings approved demolition plans, DNAinfo previously reported.

Now, a group of people who live on the block are trying to get the structure landmarked and are asking State Senator Bill Perkins to help them.

“Without the church on the block, it would look like any other block in Harlem,” said Diane Eamtrakul, who has lived across the street from the church since 2002. “You don’t see details and brickwork like that anymore.”

She would like the new owners to save the facade or at least incorporate characteristics of the original architecture into any new structures, she said.

Eamtrakul, who works in real estate, said the church fell into disrepair after a fire in 2006. Since then buyers and real estate agents keen on benefiting from Harlem’s real estate boom have been asking about it.

An empty lot next to the church was sold to 217 W 122 ST LLC for $782,500 in June, records show.

A group of about 10 neighbors joined Eamtrakul at State Senator Perkins’ office Thursday afternoon to ask him to help them save the structure.

The meeting, which was closed off to members of the press, lasted about 90 minutes.

State Senator Perkins did not commit to or rule out helping the residents preserve the church. He encouraged them to gather more supporters for the cause, according to people who attended the meeting.

“I think it went well,” said Dorothy White. “He said we had to reach out to more people who live on the block. He said there is strength in numbers.”

A representative for the state senator declined to talk about the specifics of the meeting because it was their first time speaking with the residents and hearing about this issue.

After the meeting Eamtrakul remained worried that, because the demolition permits have been approved, they don’t have a lot of time to save the church.

“It takes time but time is something we don’t have,” she said.

Historian and preservationists Michael Henry Adams, who grew frustrated during the meeting and walked out twice, criticized Perkins and other elected officials in the neighborhood for not doing enough to preserve historical sites.

“You can look at his record and the record of every elected politician in Harlem,” he said. “Since he took office we have the same percentage of building landmarked in Central Harlem. It’s not his fault alone.”

The owner of 215 West 122nd St. did not immediately return calls for comment.