A local preservation group is seeking grassroots support to prevent the demolition of a historic Flatbush church following its sale to a private developer earlier this month, asking New Yorkers to sign a petition urging the city to protect the 121-year-old edifice before it’s too late.
“The danger to this historic building is more real than ever,” said Linda Allende, a rep with the preservationist with Respect Brooklyn — which has been urging urging the city to grant landmark status to Flatbush Presbyterian Church — located at 494 E. 23rd St. between Foster and Newkirk avenues — since the building went up for sale earlier this year.
But now that developers have officially taken possession of the 1898-built church for $3.325 million, preservationists warn that the end may be near for the historic house of worship, suspecting its new owners will seek to demolish the 19th century building to pave the way for future housing developments, according to Allende.
“It is no longer a church,” said Allende. “It is in the hands of a private LLC.”
The real estate brokers listed for the sale did not respond to request for comment regarding plans for the building.
Respect Brooklyn members expressed optimism that the building’s sale would prompt the city’s preservationist agency to designate the building as a landmark — thereby preventing owners from making alterations to the building’s exterior without city approval — but a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission roundly rejected that notion, saying the city has no plans to consider the church at this time.
“While it may merit consideration as a potential landmark, further study is needed to determine its significance,” said Zodet Negrón. “Such a study is not currently among the agency’s citywide priorities.”
Respect Brooklyn reps argued that the Landmarks Commission has neglected southern Brooklyn relative to other parts of the city — pointing to the Commission’s own interactive map as proof that the density of landmarks thins out along the borough’s southern reach.
Negrón acknowledged the area’s lack of landmarks, but said the Commission needed to be especially judicious when landmarking any of the city’s numerous houses of worship.
“We appreciate the importance of the building to its community, but in a city the size of New York, with its many religious structures, the Commission must be very selective in choosing examples of this building type for consideration as individual landmarks,” she said.
Respect Brooklyn is urging the public to support the effort by signing onto their petition, which currently boasts more than 400 signatures. Supporters can also email Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mathieu Eugene through the group’s website.