INCREDIBLE NEWS! The NYC Landmarks Commission has voted to allow @middlechurch to remove the burnt remains of our facade, so we can rebuild on our historic site.— Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (@RevJacquiLewis) January 11, 2023
Truly, God is good. Out of this fire, fierce love is rising.
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Friday, January 13, 2023
The remaining structure of the fire-damaged Middle Collegiate Church will be demolished
Church leaders made the announcement via Twitter...
LPC members voted 8-2 in favor of the demolition.
As previously reported, church leaders said they must remove what remains on the property within the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. According to a report commissioned by church leaders, the culmination of an 18-month review, there is too much damage to the existing structure to integrate it into Middle Collegiate's new home, that it wouldn't withstand a full-scale rebuild on the property.
In a November interview with EVG, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at the Middle Collegiate Church, said they spent $4 million to reinforce, stabilize and weatherproof the façade in the months after the devastating December 2020 fire.
She said that despite these efforts, the façade has deteriorated over time. And then, their engineering report showed that it would be best to remove what was left before building a new church.
"It felt like something died," Lewis said of hearing this news. "The building burning felt like a death — a big death. This makes me feel heartbroken. It feels like a second loss. But if we let it go, we could get back on site, get back in the space and build something."
Preservation groups, including Village Preservation, had urged the LPC not to grant permission for demolition until further studies could occur. According to Village Preservation: "We don’t believe there is sufficient documentation that alternatives to preserve the historic façade have been fully explored, nor that there is sufficient evidence at this time to justify the permanent and irreversible removal."
Lewis previously stated that she understood the opposition.
"We relive the fire daily and try to think about what to do with it. It's that kind of grief that just keeps coming in waves," Lewis said. "At some point, two years in, I want to be able to say to my community: We did the very best we could with this. This is not a willy-nilly, hurry-up decision. The engineer says we can't keep it, and we're heartbroken."
No word just yet on the timing of the demolition.
Meanwhile, Middle Collegiate leaders continue fundraising efforts to rebuild a new church here in the East Village. They are holding services from their temporary home — East End Temple, 245 E. 17th St. between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.
EVG photo from May 2022.