Tuesday, October 11, 2016
[Image via Instagram]
You may have noticed last week that the Father’s Heart Ministry Center on 11th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B was wrapped up in construction netting with the requisite sidewalk bridge.
It's probably understandable to think the worst at the sight of this... after all, as examples, we've seen a nursing home cleared out for luxury rentals and residential buildings making way for a hotel.
Here, though, the scaffolding is a sign that much-needed repairs are getting underway at the landmarked structure (as of 2010) that was built in 1867 (and originally named the 11th Street Methodist Episcopal Chapel).
The Father’s Heart Ministry Center, which provides a variety of services, from classes to meal services for the homeless, the elderly and working poor, is in the midst of a capital improvement project. (They are currently at about 28 percent of their $500,000 goal. Find more details at their crowdfunding page.)
We asked Carol Vedral, co-founder and executive director of Father's Heart, a few questions about the work ahead.
Was there a point in which you thought the church would need to be demolished as opposed to undergoing major renovations?
We thought we might have to demolish the baptistry also known as the northern extension, but we learned early on from engineers that the building is stable and worthy of restoration/renovation.
What will the Capital Campaign allow the Father's Heart Ministry to do?
The first part of the campaign was to resolve the critical issues – keep the baptistry walls from collapsing, remove the sagging roof of our back building and replace the roofs.
The next phase is to turn our vacant and now roofless back building into a food pantry at least four times the size of our present one. We will be able to store and distribute much more food as well as a wider variety because we will have the space for an additional walk-in refrigerator or freezer or both.
This building will have a second floor and that will be our new, much larger kitchen. This frees up the room adjacent to our sanctuary where on Saturday mornings we cook over 1,500 eggs on eight electric griddles. The newly-freed space will allow us to either seat more people – our soup kitchen guests are served restaurant style – or use it another way to enhance the operation.
The church is currently encased in scaffolding and construction netting. What is the timeline on repair work?
The calendar and weather conditions are dictating the timeline and winter is approaching. We need to replace and seal the roof by the middle of December, the latest. The roof is not being repaired, it is being replaced in accordance with historic preservation guidelines and approval. Our building was landmarked by the NYC Landmarks and Preservation Commission and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. We will put up signage to that effect once the work is completed.
What is the status of the neon cross? I have taken about 10,000 photos of it through the years.
We are delighted that you and so many others have come to photograph the cross. We love it too and are carefully preserving it. The sign company we have worked with for decades has carefully removed the neon tubes and is storing them for us.
The contractor will build an enclosure around the sign to protect it further. When the roofing work is done, the neon tubes will be replaced and the sign will be shining both light and hope into the darkness once again!
Photos from 2011 by Bobby Williams