A Bay Ridge synagogue with a shrinking congregation decided this week to tear down its sanctuary and sell a portion of its Fourth Avenue property to a developer.
In an echo of the neighborhood’s famed “Green Church” controversy, the Bay Ridge Jewish Center — whose existing synagogue can hold 600 of the faithful, even though it has but 100 members — plans to sell more than half of its land.
“We’ve been having financial problems for a long time,” said Congregation President Herb Karasik. “And now we’re a very small congregation in this big building. We have to downsize — we just can’t afford not to.”
The congregation overwhelmingly agreed, voting 70 to 3 on Wednesday night to sell the property. The sale will underwrite the construction of a smaller synagogue on the remaining land, which is at the corner of 81st Street.
Karasik said that no programs will be cut — in fact, the sale of the property might free up enough cash to start new programs.
The Bay Ridge Jewish Center is just 11 blocks south of the 108-year-old United Methodist Church — dubbed “The Green Church” for its verdant façade — whose congregants enraged neighbors when they voted to tear it down to make room for condo development. That sale is also slated to raise cash to build a smaller, easier-to-maintain facility.
In both cases, shrinking congregations felt saddled by the burden of maintaining overly large facilities.
And both sites are highly coveted by residential developers.
Of course, there’s one key difference between the sales of the two houses of worship: The Green Church is eligible for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Bay Ridge Jewish Center is not.