Community Coalition Seeks Landmark Status for Flatbush Presbyterian Church

Community Coalition Seeks Landmark Status for Flatbush Presbyterian Church
1922 Rendering of Flatbush Presbyterian Church (Image: The Brooklyn Library)

FLATBUSH – In the December issue of Bklyner we wrote about the history of the 120-year-old Flatbush Presbyterian Church, and how it is likely to be redeveloped into housing, with space for a new church facility, under the current zoning regulations.

Respect Brooklyn, a group of concerned Brooklyn residents, has filed an emergency request with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to request that they designate and landmark the Flatbush Presbyterian Church at 494 East 23rd Street and Foster Avenue in Brooklyn as an individual landmark.

In their request, residents argue that:

“The beautifully harmonized Gothic styled historic stone structures on a corner lot hail from two different periods, with two different eminent architects being involved decades apart.
The Flatbush Presbyterian Church was originally “The Little Stone Church in the Potato Patch”. A chapel in the English Gothic style was constructed by architect John J. Petit in the year 1898, as one cornerstone shows.

The two number “8”’s of the year being carved as an ichthys – the proverbial Jesus fish. (Photo: Respect Brooklyn)

The 1922 addition was designed by a member of “one of America’s oldest architectural dynasties,” Hobart B. Upjohn, who, like his grandfather Richard Upjohn and his father Richard M. Upjohn, specialized in the design of churches

Taken as a whole, the Flatbush Presbyterian Church is a striking example of Gothic architecture here in Brooklyn that is entirely intact even after over 120 years. The gorgeously intricate crocketed spires were meant to invoke the divine on earth. “
Petit’s possibly most famous work in Brooklyn, the Frederick and Loretto Kolle House, aka the Japanese House is not far at 131 Buckingham Road, in the Prospect South Historic District.

Respect Brooklyn points out that the inclusion of a profile of the Church’s building was in the prestigious Architectural Forum journal in 1925 indicated that it was considered an “architectural masterpiece even then”.

There are few individual landmarks in the Flatbush/Midwood/Parkville area, especially compared to other parts of the city. Of the six individually designated buildings, four were designated half a century ago, in the 1960s and 70s, with the most recent landmark – the Avenue H Station House designated in 2004.

Neighbors advocating for preservation are also concerned that the building lacks advocates because the Flatbush Presbyterian Church congregation no longer exists – it was dissolved on October 2, 2018.

The Church building is at risk of being demolished or, at the very least, gutted to accommodate the borough’s housing needs. With no landmark preservation to protect its 19th-century stonework, developers can renovate with no restrictions.

Colliers International, a Canadian acquisition and brokerage firm, has listed the church at 494 E. 23rd St. as a potential development site.

It touts a “unique opportunity” to acquire the underdeveloped lot, that can be developed into 16,000 square feet of residential housing – nearly five times more – as of right, with no special approvals by the city. Since the property was listed by Collier’s International, Respect Brooklyn argues the city needs to act quickly to preserve Brooklyn’s architectural heritage.

If the future developer incorporates a community facility – a church will qualify – they can potentially build out to 28,920 square feet. Flatbush Presbyterian Church at 475 Riverside Dr. owns of the property, and the market value is assessed at $1,199,000.

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