Saving Park Church

Several community members came to the rally on June 30 to support saving Park Church for community use. Photo credit: Lori Ann Doyon

Park Church (129 Russell Street) is aptly named as it borders Msgr. McGolrick Park on its western edge.  “It’s the only church on a park in Greenpoint.  The reasons why it would make a great community center beyond it being [on] a park: It’s got two floors, it’s not that big, it’s actually not in that bad shape, and most importantly it has 125 years of people’s history and people’s good memories to take strength from,” said Jamie Hook, who led the June 30th evening rally on the church’s steps.  The hope is to keep the church in the community’s hands as a public space.

Jamie Hook led the rally on Park Church’s last official day. Photo credit: Lori Ann Doyo

June 30 was the last official day of the Park Church.  According to the minutes of the October meeting of the Metropolitan New York Synod (MNYS), a unanimous vote decreed that their financial support of the church would “conclude with the close of January 31, 2022 fiscal year budget.” Pastor Jacob Simpson conducted the church’s last Sunday service on June 19.  However, its community programs (preschool and music) were allowed to continue until the end of the month. 

One purpose of the June 30th rally was to rev up community support to sign a petition asking Attorney General Letitia James to halt the sale. 

“As the de-facto stewards of a non-profit, major asset, the Park Church Co-op (129 Russell St, BK, NY 11222), the Metropolitan New York Synod (MNYS) has a duty to dispose of this asset in a way that furthers both its mission, and the mission of the former Lutheran Church of the Messiah. By selling an established place of public assembly to private developers, whose use of the property will by definition preclude the public, we maintain that this sale fails the “two-prong test,” as put forth by the AG’s Charities Bureau. We further seek clarity on why the MNYS has made no effort to engage local stakeholders in disposition of this asset,” stated the petition as reason to halt the sale.

Another purpose of the rally was to inspire the community to brainstorm a way to “begin the process of mounting an offer to secure the church for community use,” said Hook in an email announcing the rally.

At the rally he stated, “My point is that I’m not a congregant. You know, I’m arguably kind of allergic to religion.  And yet this church has woven itself through my life in so many ways, and I would imagine there are a lot of people out there for whom that story is true.”

Park Chuch on July 26, 2022 Photo credit: Lori Ann Doyon

The stone church has served the community for more than a century.   After its former incarnation, The Lutheran Church of the Messiah, closed it was renamed the Park Church and reopened in 2015 with full support of MNYS.

“While the church struggled to maintain a congregation during these past 7 years, the building has thrived as a generous and diverse community space, serving children, families, the homeless, and all manner of other Greenpoint residents through musical shows, low-cost rental space, and a fabulous community kitchen.  We believe that this secondary activity as a community center was and is fundamental to the mission of the Park Church,” states the petition to save the church

The church also served the community by providing winter shelter for local unhoused people, and by being the home of the park’s farmer’s market for several winters, which ceased a few years ago. 

Friends of Park Church began communicating the need to save the church in December 2021.  The church was listed for sale in April at $4.5M.  However, according to a June 28 Instagram post, “As of today – the developer slated to buy the space has DROPPED their bid due to our local activism.”

The Park Church’s next hope lies with Attorney General Letitia James’s power to halt the sale. This petition began taking signatures on midnight of July 1, 2022.  As of this writing it has 3430 signatures.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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