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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Church To It's Knees

This story from Peter Duffy of the NYT is of a the 100 year old church whose presence reps the last vestiges of the once thriving Italian-American community the flourished in Ocean Hill/Brownsville. The church Roman Catholic "Our Lady of Loreto" at the corner of Sackman and Pacific Streets, is set to be demolished to make way for...wait for it...affordable housing.

Photo by Kirsten Luce from The New York Times 12/30/08
(above:Barbara Anne Lepak, center, with her mother, Susan Pascucci, left, and her daughter, Laura Andrews, are trying to save Our Lady of Loreto from demolition.)

A clear conflict of communities and histories. Basically most of the former Italian-American neighborhood has moved on and the church which was served them now has very low attendance. So the Diocese of Brooklyn is trying to save money, etc and that's why the church is closing. The building was proposed for landmark status which is still under review reminding me of this story on the LPC's slow pace to landmark. But considering this other recent announced church closings like this one in Bed-Stuy it's not easy to be happy for the affordable housing that's taking the church's place especially when you have these personal accounts that just breaks ya heart:
Theresa Harrison, 80, one of the few Italian-Americans to remain in the neighborhood, said she felt terrible about the impending demolition. “To me, it’s a sentimental thing,” she said. Ms. Harrison, whose maiden name was Pennine, still lives in the home where she was born on Jardine Place. “I was baptized there. First communion. Confirmation. I was married there.”
Then I read this quote:
“It’s the last thing we have left that we can hold onto and pass on to our grandchildren,” said Mr. Mondelli."
and couldn't help but think that unlike current communities in NYC struggling to not be run over and pushed out, this community (albeit for some understandable reasons) left. If the community wanted to preserve the church, the time for that was long ago and could probably only have happened if they forged ties to newcomers rather than just peeling out (message!).

Personally while I acknowledge Brownsville as being better than it's 80's self, it's still not on my list of Brooklyn neighborhoods to visit willingly and while the Italian-American Brownsville of days gone by sounds like a great place in it's time (I'd like to have eaten at "Carlucci’s Restaurant" or "Ariola Bakery" as mentioned in the Times piece) if I did traverse the hood during that time would I have felt any safer there than I do in the current neighborhood? I wonder...

Anyway it's an interesting turn on the "history of a neighborhood torn down for new stuff" saga that I often rail about. Plus I realized I do very few Brownsville-Stories of which I have a few, but for now this story will have to do. Equal time.

(Update I remembered a story about this area, click here)

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