WILLIAMSBURG — A stately, Beaux-Arts building built in 1904 that's been home for a Ukrainian Orthodox parish since the 1960s, shouldn't be designated a landmark, members of the community's land use committee voted last week.
Members of the community board, which has an advisory role in the landmarking process, were swayed by the words of the Ukrainian Church in Exile's Rev. Wolodymyr Wronskyj, who argued that a landmark status would be too costly for the strapped congregation.
"Once you landmark a building it becomes more difficult with the upkeep ... it becomes very, very regulated. We can't afford it," Wronskyj said, speaking on behalf of the parish.
Since the '60s, when the congregation bought the building at 177 South 5th St., which was once a bank for the Williamsburg Trust Company and then a courthouse, parishioners have invested more than $2 million dollars in repairs, Wronskyj said.
And the approximately 30 church-goers who hail mostly from Ridgewood, Central Brooklyn and Brighton Beach have no intention of selling the building, according to Wronskyj.
"They should give us credit. We saved the building," said Wronskyj. "If not for us they [would have had] to demolish it because it was dangerous."
While preservationists were grateful that Ukrainian Church in Exile had meticulously maintained the historic structure over the decades, they argued that concerns about costs were unfounded, and that landmark status would protect the building for generations to come.
"There's really no downside," said Ann-Isabel Friedman, who oversees historic religious sites at the New York State's landmarks conservancy, a nonprofit that recommended designating the building a landmark. "It doesn't really make logical sense. They seem to see it as something that creates less value in the building."
Landmark status would also make the church eligible for grants specifically set aside for religious sites across the state. Last year, the Landmark's Conservancy gave out more than $500,000 in grants for repairs to 46 churches across the state, Friedman said.
"Landmark designation is a way to ensure that the building continues to serve as a church, continues to serve as a community resource," Friedman said. "Not designating it makes its future more risky."
There are also city grants available to help landmark buildings undergo facade repairs, and for the most part restorations are not mandatory.
"The agency does not require restoration or any other work, except in the rare case in which an owner allows a historic building to deteriorate to the point that it becomes structurally unsound," said Damaris Olivo, a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The full community board will decide this month whether or not to recommend landmark status for the Ukrainian Church in Exile, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission has the final say in the matter.