Workers exhumed 211 bodies from the crypt of Bay Ridge’s “Green Church,” moving the 108-year-old house of worship closer to its long-slated, but much-protested demolition.
Citing the costs of ongoing renovation work, Pastor Robert Emerick last year signed off on a plan to tear down the verdant Bay Ridge United Methodist Church to make room for a smaller church and condos on the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues.
Before demolition can begin, the church needed to relocate the remains of its 19th-century parishioners, which had rested untouched in a crypt since 1901.
Workers donned gloves, carefully placing the remains in steal vaults before moving them to Cypress Hills Cemetery, where “they’ll be buried alongside other Methodists,” Emerick said.
For neighbors fighting to preserve the church, the disinterment is a bad omen.
“Once you’ve moved the bodies, the next step is bringing the church down,” said Victoria Hofmo of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge Methodist Church, which has been having bi-weekly rallies to build community support against tearing down the historic green stone building. Hofmo’s group wants the landmark-worthy church turned into a community center.
City Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) — whose calls to preserve the “Green Church” drew harsh words from Emerick — called the exhumation egregious.
"It's a sad day for all those ancestors of the church, whose bodies were at rest, to now have to be uprooted, disturbing their eternal peace in the name of residential development,” he said.
But according to Emerick, the opposition isn’t thinking about what’s best for the church.
“They don’t actually care about the remains,” said Emerick. “They’re opposed to anything that this congregation does with its property.”