Southern Brooklyn

BIG Pleads For Savior Of Methodist Church


United Methodist Church Sheepshead Bay

After hearing the news that the Korean United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay would be tearing down its iconic steeples, Bay Improvement Group President Steve Barrison was dismayed. The 142-year-old church, at 3087 Ocean Avenue came, on the group’s radar once before, back when BIG’s membership numbers were strong and the group was attempting to preserve fixtures of neighborhood character before they got swept up in development and cultural shifts. Unfortunately, that tide of change came, and the group did not succeed in all of its efforts.

Now, he and his group are once again pleading for a local leader or benevolent patron to come forward and help preserve the building’s steeples. Barrison wrote the following statement after reading about the church’s plans on Sheepshead Bites:

We at BIG tried in the early 1990’s pleading with their Board of Directors/Trustees to Landmark the Church and they were sadly, ignorantly afraid of “Landmark status” even though we tried to persuade them with experts in Church preservation, Engineers & Architects and myself, as an Attorney, to explain the great help they would have in obtaining Landmark status. They could have received State, City, Federal and private grants to restore the Church!

We at BIG, offered and wanted to collaborate with them on community awareness and fund raising but they wanted to do it themselves. We even got estimates to stabilize the Church which were way below the estimates they were told by others!

This is very sad and an important landmark in our community that has been there in old photos long before the shape of our community, as we know it today, was in place. Even Lundy had a connection in the history and building and funding of this Church. I wish it wasn’t so, but it seems most people are quick to criticize and complain but not actually put in the effort needed. This is a loss to our history in Brooklyn and our community of Sheepshead Bay. Too bad there couldn’t be some kind of emergency stability right now and then repair to the building and it’s steeples.

This is a true loss and an emergency of the highest priority if someone could come forward with the power and means to save this structure and the steeples immediately.

Comment policy


  1. if they get any of my tax money i will seriously feed the birds constantly right next to that place so they shit all over it. why not put the church in another church like they do to save money with our schools

  2. I’m all for protecting historic structures but here’s the catch. Landmarking can make reconstruction an expensive process.

    This is presently a poor church. Had it been landmarked it would have been difficult to do anything to save the building for future use. Getting an exemption from requirements for reconstruction using period techniques and materials is a time consuming process. And in the case of the the steeples, there is simply no money for it. As an active religious institution they cannot receive government funds for purposeful restoration. Private donations might be undertaken, but that can also be a slow process. The amount of money they would need in order to save the steeples may well be in the hundreds of thousands. The front of the church has already been damaged from the shifting weight. It is not possible to wait much longer, finding a solution for this problem has been under consideration by the church boards for a number of years, at this point an immediate solution is almost imperative.

    Writing the above pains me, but I have to deal in truths here. Unless someone can raise a very substantial amount of money quickly the steeples will have to go.

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  4. Oh, how could Barrison leave out the church’s most famous member, Gravesend’s own Boss Tweed, John Y. McKane?

    Even sadder is the fact that the church’s earlier building at 2744 East 23rd Street was demolished 5 years ago. It flew under the radar of most of us, it housed the ME Church of Sheepshead Bay from 1869 through 1884, when the current building was completed. It later housed the Franklin Lodge of the International Order Of Odd Fellows, and more recently was a Veterans Of Foreign Wars post.

  5. Hey Brooklyner – I remember Reverend Grevatt. Great guy. I also remember his wife June – boy, was she a winner. She had her goldfish on top of the stove one evening when a bunch of us were all over there. She said that he/she wasn’t feeling well and probably needed surgery (????) She also told my sister how fat she was (she was 8 months pregnant at the time). I really liked him though.

  6. Nobody wants them – look at what they did to this beautiful little building. It’s destroyed. One of my neighbors was watching Brooklyn 12 and she said that they showed the inside – the damage to the structure is beyond terrible. That building will collapse and they will all just walk away and find another place to destroy.

  7. I don’t know what the rental agreement is, but usually infrastructure maintenance is the responsibility of the owner, not the tenant.

  8. I don’t know what the rental agreement is, but usually infrastructure maintenance is the responsibility of the owner, not the tenant.

  9. I don’t think any church really has an owner. I would think that the church is owned by the members. Don’t bite my head off if I am wrong. That is just my thought.

  10. Walter was really decent, June was June. Walter knew all sorts of people, and introduced me to some people who were able to help me in small ways when I was trying to make a living as one of those godawful folksingers. Never got to successful, but I did gain from meeting these people. And then there was the coiffeehouse a bunch of us ran in the basement of Lundy Hall. It was Walter’s idea, but we presented it to the committees and boards as our own. We had already done it elsewhere, but the idea of starting fresh appealed to us, and Walter was very enthusiastic. And we got an occasional upright bass player, Walter played better than he thought.

  11. I talked to Rev. Kim last week and it seems that the ownership of the property is not clear. He said that in an absolute sense the regional Methodist conference owns it, but this is much like the concept of eminent domain. The land was originally donated to the local church, and parishioners paid for the construction. The current local organization is still the United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay, but it is verbally agreed that the Korean United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay would have equal legal standing. So no tenancy relationship exists at the moment.

  12. I remember that he loved those folksingers, especially Pete Seger. He was a really cool guy. Used to recomend me to families who needed a babysitter who could be trusted.

  13. Walter introduced me to Pete Seeger, and over a number of years I did free performances at various venues because Pete asked me to. It was a good experience but in the end didn’t do my career much good.

  14. Q. Did the pastor apply for a grant from the “Sacred Sites” program or any other grant program such as “Save America’s Treasures”? “Sacred Sites” is targeted at helping with serious exterior problems of historic churches and synagogues in NYC. Does anyone know whether they tried at least? It wouldn’t reflect well if no such effort had been made by the church’s current stewards and/or if no help was proactively offered by the area’s public officials to prevent this destruction of a cultural treasure and what should be a designated historic landmark. The peeling exterior paint which has characterized the structure for some years now means that the problems have not exactly been hidden from the view of Sheepshead Bay area reps, who should have reached out to help. As an illustration of what grants can do, there was a big story some time back about a substantial government grant helping to restore Brooklyn’s first Reform synagogue. The 142-year-old United Methodist Church building is also very much an historic structure, an amazing survivor from the nineteenth-century era in Sheepshead Bay and richly deserving of the same assistance. Your eyes are invariably drawn to this painted structure with the interesting design that is such a contrast to the ordinary, undistinguished modern buildings all around it. It is one of the most interesting and unique sights and evokes the area’s simpler past. So much has been lost but until now, this has survived. It is nothing short of a disgrace that the first the public is hearing about these destructive plans is after the pastor has secured a permit, the scaffolding is up, and this rich piece of our cultural history is to be ruined and lost forever. Is this being allowed to happen because it’s in the outer outer boroughs of New York City? Sort of like the laggard snow plowing and cleanup we experienced? Or is it an indifference to preserving area history by the Bay area’s own representatives? Or why, exactly? The U.S. gives tons of money to UNESCO to help document and secure cultural sites all over the world and other levels of our government award preservation grants, sometimes matching ones–and yet there’s not so much as a dime to save Sheepshead Bay’s own history from destruction??? For shame!

  15. Correction: It’s Brooklyn’s East Midwood Jewish Center, c1924, a Conservative congregation, that is an example of a religious building that has benefitted from preservation loans and grants. They received a $300,000 loan from the NY Landmarks Conservancy for exterior repairs and participated in a 2.1 matching grant program. They also were awarded a grant of $409,575 for interior restorations from The New York State Environmental Protection Fund. The building is listed as a National Historic Place and no doubt is landmarked too. The B.I.G. article suggests that past failure to apply for these status categories plays a role in the church’s problems. But does that mean that it wouldn’t be eligible for “Sacred Sites” and other grant programs at all? And again, did the church make any effort to apply for help? This is, indeed, an emergency!

  16. In this case the church was built on donated land, and the construction costs were paid for by members of the congregation. As for who owns it, that’s trickier. On one level the members do. On another, the local Conference of the United Methodist Church does.

  17. The East Midwood Jewish does not have NYC Landmark status. Doing so would compromise their ability to undertake essential repairs at a reasonable cost.

    I’m still mulling over what considerations would have caused the Trustees to decide not to start a process of applying for funding that could be used for restoration and repair. Possibly the conference might have set up conditions for such a course that would have taken control out of the hands of local congregation, perhaps they weren’t convinced that they actually qualified for such assistance.

    But that was then. It occurs to me that Steve Barrison should contact Rev Kim immediately. The number is (718) 332-3270.

  18. The article itself suggests that the B.I.G. tried to assist the church in applying for landmark status in the past precisely because that would facilitate its obtaining grants to preserve the church. You say its the opposite–that if the church were landmarked, it would be more difficult to pay for repairs. Ok, but the church did not obtain landmark status and “reasonable cost” repairs haven’t happened either! So the alleged advantages of remaining unlandmarked do not seem to be apparent at this point–particularly now that an essential part of this historic structure, its steeples, are about to be destroyed in plain sight. What is clear is that the status quo isn’t working for the preservation of this church. Something needs to be done—fast. 142 years old, oldest church in Sheepshead Bay, pass by and be transported to imagining horses and carriages or wagons pulling up there, a window on our past–and they go to the Bldngs. Department and get a permit to pull down those two historic steeples, an integral part of an arresting and unusual painted design that you don’t see elsewhere in this city–and its full-speed-ahead? And that’s when other people learn about it? 1. What, exactly, did the pastor do to try to secure help? 2. Where are the area’s reps.? This is about the history of Sheepshead Bay. Please help!

  19. I think that first we shall have to clear some matters up. The church as an entity is 180 years old, having been founded in 1840. The current building was built in 1884, making it 126 years old. Second, the church building was altered in 1925. It’s basic form remained the same but changes were made. This could have an effect on getting approval for landmarking.

    More importantly, as I said before, landmarked buildings are more expensive to restore and repair.

    I should have some knowledge of the specifics, but I don’t. I can only speculate as to why the church leadership did not pursue the course suggested to them. My guess is that landmarking was the part of this that concerned them.

    The current painted design is not the same as it was years ago. I might have a photo from the 1980s somewhere to draw a comparison from.

  20. It was reported everywhere else that the church building dates from 1869. However, if, as you say, it was actually built in 1884, proper stewardship still requires efforts to save it, restore it, landmark it, and treasure its survival. The East Midwood Jewish Center dates from 1924 and that fact was no barrier to its receiving tremendous amounts of preservation loans and grants. Didn’t the Sheepshead Bay racetrack open in 1880? Might its era, to 1910, be considered a veritable heyday for the area? It’s still true that this building evokes the nineteenth century and a simpler, pre-development time in Sheepshead Bay and the Kings County towns. It’s interesting to know that the congregation has been around since 1840, before this building was in existence; that there was a renovation in 1925 which made changes; and that the church had different paint colors in 1983. Perhaps it would have benefitted from “official” NYC landmark status, if it could be obtained, and have applied for assistance whether it achieved such status or not. It does appear from the article about the B.I.G.’s fruitless efforts that THEY thought landmarking would help and they tried. However, it’s possible that, rather than planning to do things on their own, as the article recounts, the real reason for the congregation’s inaction at that time was actually a resistance to landmarking and the consequent requirement to preserve the physical building. We don’t know. More importantly, we don’t even know whether the current pastor tried to obtain grant help to preserve key elements of this historic structure before applying for this permit. What really matters in all this is that this building is an important piece of Sheepshead Bay’s history; it may not be an officially-designated NYC landmark but it is a landmark nonetheless, an undeclared one and an historical treasure, if you will. Unbelievably, a tragic but preventable loss is now staring us in the face.

  21. First, the date issue.

    Enter the date October 13th 1884. Read the first article.

    Second, a friend of mine’s father owned a landmarked house. Having it landmarked was a mistake. A leak developed and they were unable to have it repaired because of the requirements. Money from foundation grants were not easily obtainable. The result was an unusable top floor.

    My father was the treasurer of the Board of Trustees in the early 90s. I only remembering him mentioning this in a casual fashion, it seems to me that BIG did not adequately address their concerns. However, I do not remember hearing specifics.

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