Class goes green

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The City Council has given its blessing to the use of the Green Church site for a new school, bringing the proposal one step closer to fruition.

“Today we unanimously approved in the City Council a new school site %u2013 the 680-seat site at the old Green Church,” City Councilmember Vincent Gentile told members of the District 20 Community Education Council, gathered at Public School 229, 1400 Benson Avenue, last Wednesday.

Gentile said he hopes the project at the corner of Ovington and Fourth Avenues will advance quickly, thereby alleviating overcrowding at nearby schools. With City Council support now achieved, the School Construction Authority (SCA) can move ahead to purchase the property.

“We hope to get that elementary school open as soon as possible because you know what the situation is like at P.S. 102 and 170,” he noted.

However, Gentile added, “It’s a little bit more difficult because we’re dealing with church property.”

The idea of utilizing the property on which the beloved sanctuary once stood for a school was publicly discussed last winter, after the gracious old structure of the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church was demolished. While activists who fought to save the sanctuary made it clear that they would have immensely preferred to retain the 100-year-old structure, given the circumstances, the idea of a school at the site found general favor, even among those who mourned the loss of the church.

“A school is better than a hole in the ground,” preservationist Victoria Hofmo, the founder of the Bay Ridge Conservancy, and a member of the Committee to Save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, had remarked when the idea was first discussed.

“Obviously, a school would serve the community,” Hofmo said at the time. “It’s better than condos. But, I’d rather have the Green Church.”

In January, Community Board 10 overwhelmingly voted to support the proposal.

“I think it was a case of making lemonade out of lemons,” Gentile said in a subsequent interview. The demolition of the church was “A situation which many of us fought to avoid. When we couldn’t avoid it, we were left with a vacant lot, with the prospect of it being vacant for a long time, particularly with the downturn in the economy. That’s when I asked the SCA for the second time to look at the location.” The agency had previously looked at the site when the church was still intact, he added, “But they didn’t want to consider it while the church was still standing.”

The school building will likely be between 92,000 and 93,000 square feet in size, and between 65 and 75 feet tall. Earlier this year, an SCA official said that, if all goes well, the school could open in September, 2013.

Approximately 5,000 square feet of the site, on Ovington Avenue, would be reserved by the congregation to build a new sanctuary.

The school would represent the fulfillment of a promise made several years back, when DOE included a whopping 5,119 seats for the district in its 2005-2009 capital plan. Until recently, the district still had about 2,000 seats to go to fulfill the commitment, with only about six months left before the funding dries up, on June 30th.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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