[EVG file photo]
I haven't heard anything the former Church of the Nativity on Second Avenue in almost a year to the date.
On Dec. 2, 2017, Friends of Nativity Church and the Cooper Square Community Land Trust held a prayer service and advocated that the property be used for low-incoming housing.
First, some background before getting to the point of bringing this up now.
The church closed in July 2015 as part of a massive consolidation reportedly due to changing demographics and a shortage of priests available to say mass. The Church of the Nativity merged with the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer on Third Street between Avenue A and Avenue B.
The Friends of Nativity had previously proposed a Dorothy Day Shrine and retreat center with services for the homeless at 44 Second Ave. between Second Street and Third Street. (Read more about that proposal here.)
This past summer, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York desacralized the former church, clearing the way for a potential sale of the desirable property.
Last Thursday, Rebecca Amato, a professor at NYU and associate director of the school's Urban Democracy Lab, presented on the Church of the Nativity at the Pontifical Council for Culture’s international conference on cultural heritage in Rome. The topic of the conference, "Doesn’t God Dwell Here Anymore?," facilitated discussion about reusing church landholdings after they are decommissioned.
According to her presentation, the Archdiocese of New York has sold at least 19 sacred properties for luxury development since 1996. (Hello Steiner East Village!)
In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter published Monday, Amato makes her case for using the site for the needy. (H/T to The Lo-Down who linked to this article yesterday.)
An excerpt from the article:
Amato ... said former parishioners proposed to purchase the decommissioned church for $18 million to develop low-income, senior and homeless family housing.
The alternative plan is to sell the property for a reported $50 million and build a luxury residential development, which Amato said would be a "sordid use" of a once-sacred edifice.
Although not all of the residents in the area were parishioners, decommissioned churches like the Church of the Nativity continue to be an integral part of "the fabric of a neighborhood," Amato said.
"Those are the kind of things that are destroyed by global investment firms, but they shouldn't be destroyed by the archdiocese; they shouldn't be behaving the same way," Amato said.
The proposal to convert the parish into low-income housing would greatly benefit the residents near the church, Amato said. Predominantly made up of Catholics of Puerto Rican descent, residents find themselves not only "displaced by housing issues, evictions, rising land costs but now they're being displaced by their own Catholic Church, by the archdiocese."
"So, the idea of selling this property — that is so associated with the Catholic Worker [Movement] and advocacy for the poor — for $50 million is astounding on so many levels."
And the Archdiocese's take:
Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the New York Archdiocese, acknowledged that several proposals for the site were reviewed, including the proposal submitted by the church's former parishioners.
Nevertheless, he said, "the parish needs to receive fair market value for the property so that the parish and the archdiocese can continue to meet the pastoral, charitable, educational — and housing — needs of the people we serve."
Zwilling also explained that the proposed sale of the property "is by and for the parish, not the archdiocese."
He also said that proceeds from the sale of the Church of the Nativity, which was merged in 2015 with a neighboring parish — Most Holy Redeemer — would not go to the archdiocese, but the parish.
You can read another interview with Amato along with more background in this article at America Magazine.
Not mentioned in this articles: This past July, Provincial Superior Father Paul Borowski announced during a mass at the Most Holy Redeemer that the Redemptorists would be turning the parish back to the archdiocese in the summer of 2019. (Among other reasons, he cited older and fewer priests.) As I understand it, the church, which was completed in 1852, will be administered by a Diocesan priest starting next summer.
Previously on EV Grieve:
As the Church of the Nativity closes for good tonight, take a look at the original structure
Parishioners fight to save the Church of the Nativity on 2nd Avenue
Parishioners hope their prayers are answered with former Nativity space on 2nd Avenue