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Stairway To Heaven: Why Brooklyn’s Churches Are Becoming Condos

The Trinity Apostolic Church at 967 Bedford Ave in BedStuy was sold for $4.7 million and is set to become a retail space and apartment building.

By Jeff Vasishta November 14, 2016

Holy Moly! Is nothing sacred? The Trinity Apostolic Church at 967 Bedford Ave in BedStuy has done its fair share of converting souls in its time, but this is one conversion its flock of believers may not have been praying for. The church was sold for $4.7 million in January 2016 and is set to become a retail space and apartment building according to plans filed with the city.

Related: Historic Temple On East 6th St. Combines Piety With A Penthouse

The three-story red and white building will be converted into eight apartments (on four floors) with more than 10,000 square feet of residential space. Trinity Apostolic Church moved to the Bedford Avenue building in 1991 but it wasn’t high taxes or building repairs which caused the church to sell. It was something, to which New Yorkers can relate—parking space.

“We love the building, we fixed it up very nicely but it was restricting the growth of the church because of the parking. When we invited other churches, people couldn’t find spots,” Pastor Cornelius Olive told DNA Info. “We enjoyed being there, but for me, for the church, growth is the main concern — the saving of souls. And when the parking was restricting people from coming, things like that, we decided to move.”

The church moved to 1807 Pacific St. between Utica and Rochester avenues in Crown Heights in February and now has its own parking lot, Olive added.

Church conversions in historic Brooklyn have been happening regularly over the last two decades. Particularly hard hit are “brownstone belt” churches where is rapidly escalating price of real estate has made condos appealing to developers.

“I think it’s a tragedy that we are losing these unique and amazing structures,” said Sharon Barnes, a member of the Society for Clinton Hill told DNA Info. “They are part of the fabric of our streets and to lose so many is heartbreaking.”

Related: Parish To Penthouse No More: Trinity Church Modifies Condo Plans

But Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, said that church to condo conversions are a practical way to preserve the historic nature of the buildings after congregations can no longer afford the upkeep.

“The actual physical character of the buildings is retained even when they are converted to residential use,” he said.

Church conversions, undoubtedly strike a note of sadness to long time members for whom they may have played an integral part in their life but with the demographic, particularly in Brooklyn changing to younger and arguably more secular one, sales are often inevitable.

“There are simply not the numbers to sustain congregations that can maintain the healthy functioning of these structures,” Rev John Merz of Greenpoint’s Church of the Ascension which recently sold its parish hall to a condo developer told BrooklynPaper.com.

While parishioners may mourn, condo buyers with deep pockets are celebrating a unique, one of kind home imbued with the history and soul of old New York. And let’s face it, church condos are a also likely to be a closer to a celestial spirit than the often sterile, glassy towers pushing New York’s skyline into the heavens.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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