Heaven help us, but the charming steeples of Sheepshead Bay’s oldest standing church, at 142 years old, will soon be plucked from Sheepshead Bay’s skyline.
Officials at the Ben Car Building Corp. – the contractors hired to remove the twin spires comprising part of the Korean United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay at 3087 Ocean Avenue – say they’re just sorting through some last minute paper work, but are ready to send in the wrecking crew in just a few days.
Rev. Jay Kyung Kim, the congregation’s pastor, told Sheepshead Bites that the aged steeples have taken a toll, and even the naked eye can see that they’re leaning away from the building. Kim said the stress is threatening to tear apart the rest of the church, as massive cracks on the interior illustrate.
“It is a long project,” said Kim. “The immediate plan is to remove the danger. The only reason we’re taking down the steeples is for safety.” He added that the steeples have posed a threat since he arrived at the church six years ago, but the Buildings Department says there is no record of trouble.
The cost of the project and its duration is unknown, since they’ve only raised funds to remove the steeples and the front portion of the building. Kim said he doesn’t think the congregation will be able to raise enough money to replace the iconic towers, and they’re looking for a simple solution to salvage their place of worship – but not the history.
“It is not a landmarked building,” he said. “Of course it has its own history and we’d like to keep it as long as it causes no problems, no danger to the public.” But that’s not the case, he said. The church is planning to preserve the bell – and possibly the weather vane – but the rest is heading for the junkyard.
After the demolition, Kim said they have not finalized plans for replacing it. He expects a simple dome – or possibly even tarp – will cap the building until they can raise funds for a more permanent solution.
The New York City Department of Buildings has already issued a permit for the take down – the required scaffolding and sidewalk sheds have been installed as well.
Highlighted with red trim and textured shingles, the church’s old-world architecture has long stood in marked relief to Sheepshead Bay’s otherwise condo-infused landscape. It was originally constructed in 1869 and renovated later in 1925. The venerable structure has survived many challenges, including both fire and dwindling attendance, since then.
The church still celebrates Sunday mass at 10:30 a.m. and hosts popular weekend flea markets on Saturday afternoons.
The United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay is part of a larger religious tradition that stretches back to 18th century England.
Additional reporting by Ned Berke.