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Is Gentile pulling a Ratner on us?

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Take notes, kids: the fate of the “Green Church” is offering a textbook example of a philosophical and political debate older than the distinctive sandstone clock tower gracing its top: What are more important, individual rights or the good of the community?

On one side, we have Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). When locals voiced their anger at the news that Bay Ridge United Methodist would be sold and torn down to make room for condos, Gentile acted to save the landmark

“I think, one thing that we can all agree on, is that the destruction of the ‘Green Church’ would not be in the best interest of any one in our community,” Gentile said last month. He also touted a deal he worked out that would have saved the church, added condo units to the neighborhood and yielded a $300,000 annual windfall for the church for upkeep.

On the other side of the debate, we had the parishioners, who to almost everyone’s surprise, carried the minority position of actually wanting to see the church destroyed.

“Our church is falling apart and as a congregation, we know that the Almighty has more important work for us than throwing money at a building,” one parishioner said (and Yellow Hooker believed her).

A classic dog-pile quickly ensued of parishioners, pundits, and even a reverend. Craig Miller, the pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, told Gentile he was “greatly disappointed to hear you presume to tell a congregation its mission” and “injecting an inappropriate political influence in the affairs of the church.”

How could this have happened? How could the Councilman, who was only responding to a powerful public sentiment to save a cherished Bay Ridge institution, be cast as the villain?

“I think people are misunderstanding our position, we are only working towards a plan that would be in everybody’s best interest,” said a Gentile aid (and Yellow Hooker believed him).

“I happen to like Vince Gentile” said the Rev. Miller. “But he got himself in the middle of something he had no business in, and that … crossed the line.”

Rev. Miller was talking about the “Action Sheet” Gentile passed out that urged people to call the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has the power to declare a building a landmark even without the owner’s permission; and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who must approve the sale of all religious property to private developers.

“The problem with pressuring Andrew Cuomo and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, is that neither one of them owns the church,” Rev. Miller said.

That moved Gentile into the unenviable position of appearing like Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner — who got the state to condemn private property and turn it over to him. Gentile’s aid, Eric Kuo, wouldn’t take such bait.

“What everyone needs to recognize is that the community has an interest in what happens to the ‘Green Church,’ too,” Kuo said. “The Attorney General and the Landmarks Preservation Commission are both working on behalf of the public.”

Political philosophy 101: Individual property rights or the best interest of the community?

Yellow Hooker would make the argument that the premise itself is the result of a false dichotomy because there exists no greater communal interest than private property rights. But then again, I flunked the only political philosophy course I ever took.

The Kitchen Sink

Look for Community Board 10 to take a central role in preserving Bay ­Ridge’s historic churches. New chairman Dean Rasinya told The Stoop that the key is cooperation. “We aren’t going to be making any threats because we fully understand who owns these churches,” Rasinya said. “But we [will try to] maintain these structures that are so important to us.” Good luck Dean. …

Our love for Griswold’s Pub is as rich as its barbeque ribs and Brown Betty apple pie, but since the sale of the bar was announced (and further delayed for another few weeks) the quality of the Griswold’s experience has gone the way of a bear market. Thankfully, Yellow Hook, a new pub on Third Avenue and 70th Street, looks like a good heir apparent. …

John Quaglione, a spokesman for state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge), voiced his concern that he never gets his name in the Sink (as if he doesn’t see his name in the paper enough!) So how’s this, John?: Which famous talk show host did John Q once work for? A) Oprah B) Ellen or C) Tim Russert? Answer next week! …

If you notice two fences along the path at the Narrows Botanical Garden, thank big government. The installation of a new black wrought-iron fence was easy enough, but the trouble came in removing the old one, which which was accomplished only after going through an elaborate maze of government agencies.

Updated 4:28 pm, July 9, 2018
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