Park Church supporters move to challenge purchase
On learning the news that the Metropolitan New York Synod (MNYS) had accepted an offer for Park Church (129 Russell Street), advocates for the church to remain a community space made moves to contest the sale with the NYS Attorney General (AG). With the motion to contest, they sent the AG a petition signed by 3751; an online petition is still active and accepting more signatures. They have also started a word of mouth campaign which encourages the community to send their reasons for opposing the sale to this email: email@example.com.
The supporters of Park Church state the MNYS has refused to work with the community. They have ignored requests from church congregants and tenants, community leaders, and elected officials. The supporters see the sale as MNYS taking the opportunity to profit from what is a pricey area for real estate.
In MNYS’s point of view, “The Metropolitan New York Synod Council approved the sale of the former Messiah Lutheran Church building, where Park Church Co-op operated, following careful evaluation. This decision was made due to declining worship attendance and safety concerns with the building’s structure. The sale proceeds will support the growth of viable congregations, particularly those serving marginalized communities, in alignment with the synod’s commitment to anti-racism. Pastoral care and guidance have been — and continue to be — offered for the former Park Church Co-op members. Additionally, the Greenpoint area is a lively neighborhood near multiple MNYS congregations eager to welcome the former Park Church Co-op members. They are encouraged to explore their options by visiting the “Find a Church” page on the synod’s website at www.mnys.org,” said a statement provided by Roberto Lara-Aranda.
In the view of Park Church’s congregants, the church’s operation had adjusted to the community’s needs and had broadened its services beyond worship to additionally offer: concerts, children’s arts programming, a winter home for Msgr. McGolrick Park’s farmers market, and partnered with Breaking Ground to provide overnight shelter for unhoused neighbors during the winter. The mores that were developed at Park Church are intrinsic to the community and its location that “Find a Church” wouldn’t be able to solve.
In a Greenpointers article published on May 2, 2022 Michael Nowotarski, a Park Church attendee and music series curator, stated, “The reality is they’re going to be making an immense profit; while they’ve invested something like $700,000, they claim, they’re flipping the building for $4.5 million. We’ve done a bit of research about Metro New York Synod and it was pretty clear to us that this is not unusual, this is actually their business model. They go to these churches with smaller congregations on properties worth millions of dollars, take possession of them, say they’re going to invest all of this money, they never invest the money and they flip the building and walk away with their own salaries and pensions.”
This attempt to save Park Church is on a 90-day deadline from the time the AG received the paperwork for the sale.
When asked what will happen if the sale is contested, Jaime Hook, one of the activists trying to save Park Church, said, “A contested sale pushes the adjudication process into the courts, which a) allows the community to be present and voice concern, and moreover b) makes the deal difficult and ugly, and a stain on the developer’s hands. We hope that will be enough to scare them off.”
A previous offer to purchase the church was withdrawn, and the supporters of Park Church are hoping their continued efforts to keep the space for the community will give the current buyer second thoughts.
Within that 90-day time period Hook hopes to counter the buyer’s offer. He also lists other goals: incorporating the group or “raise funds via binding pledge [and attracting] the interest of the broader community and perhaps even some benefactory individuals.” His specific vision is to bring about a community space like Absalon in Copenhagen, Denmark: https://arcgency.com/absalons-kirke, which is housed in a former church.
The question of what will benefit the area more: a community space that provides culture and services or more luxury condos is up to the community to answer.
To learn more or join the efforts to save Park Church go to: https://commonplace.nyc/ There is a presentation in the works for the community sometime after February 17 at Pete’s Candy Store. You can also follow their Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/commonplace.nyc/