United Methodist Church Sheepshead Bay

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.

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  • Beginablarp

    Don’t junk ‘em! Call these guys: http://www.bignyc.org/whatisdeconstruction. If the materials are re-usable, those steeples could get a second life.

    • Anonymous

      Excellent idea!

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    We can’t always save and preserve the past. Sometimes it’s not cost effective, sometimes it’s just not possible. While it’s sad that’s the way life is. The best you can do is document the structure as it is now, and its history, so future members and historians know it’s history and significance.

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    We can’t always save and preserve the past. Sometimes it’s not cost effective, sometimes it’s just not possible. While it’s sad that’s the way life is. The best you can do is document the structure as it is now, and its history, so future members and historians know it’s history and significance.

  • Joseph Ditta
    • Anonymous

      holy cow!

      • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

        I’m more amazed at the corner. There used to be trees and a park!

  • Barkingspider7

    I was born and raised in this church. This was a beautiful little church until the Koreans came in and turned it into a pig stye. Last time I went into the sanctuary, the carpet was torn and shredded, and get this – “repaired with duct tape”. They lost mostly all the congregants who I would remember. Also, I thought that this building had landmark status because it is the oldest church building in Sheepshead Bay – in which case, they have to rebuild the steeples. What a shame that they allowed the building to become a s**t hole.

    • Anonymous

      Did you do anything to support the parish? From what I hear their numbers are so low that maybe the only way they could afford to fix the carpet is with duct tape.

      I’m not affiliated with the parish by any means – but come on – give them a break.

      • Barkingspider7

        I was always very involved with the church, teacher, in the choir, helped to organize and run Christmas fairs and other fund raisers, until the Korean congregation moved in and started to destroy the church. They were originally “tenants”, but were very careless and destroyed what we had. All but a few of the original congregants left because of this.

        • Anonymous

          That’s a real shame. But from everything I can tell, it’s worshipers have declined significantly over the years and the money to maintain the building and grounds just isn’t there anymore.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            Basically it is as Barkingspider says. There was always a lot of tension between the two congregations, and, as tenants, the Koreans felt that they had little obligation to help financially with special projects such as emergency repairs. Over the years their numbers increased while those of the original congregation declined.

          • Scpetgrave

            I totally agreeded with you, What do you have to offer us so that we can be that vibrant community again. God is still here, but we need your help.

            Pastor 

          • Barkingspider7

            When I was a child, the church got all the children together twice a year to do the yardwork. We planted flower bulbs, pulled them out later on and weeded the yard between the church and the parsonage. The men of the church got up on ladders and painted. Everyone took care of the building and property. Older congregation members passed away, their families left the church because it was becoming such a mess. The new congregants felt that they didn’t have to help out. We also had a minister a while back, who the old ladies loved, and when he was “relieved” of his duties in our church, he took them with him and set up a “church” in Lundy’s. This church has some history!

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            Are we talking abouit Vroon?

          • Barkingspider7

            You got it! He’s now living in Chicago, I believe and he and his boyfriend Ray have a magazine about the arts. How did you know him? Did you or your family go to this church?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            I wrote earlier that my fami;ly had been members of the church since the 50s. And I was on the Administrative board when Vroon’s contract was not renewed.

            From what I remember Vroon was bi-sexual.

        • Scpetgrave

          As the Pastor I am inviting you to come and help us. Let us work together to build up the ministry. My focus is on our young people. Will you help us

          Pastor Cundy

      • Scpetgrave

        Thank for you comment.
        Pastor

    • Scpetgrave

      My name is Sharon Cundy and the new pastor of Sheepshead Bay English congregation. Would like to meet you, why don’t you stop by and visit us some time? We are in the process of starting the repairs of the building, would you like to make a donation? May God bless you Pastor

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    My guess is that there isn’t enough money available to do whatever is necessary to repair the steeples. And no money coming from the local Conference to help.

    • Barkingspider7

      The methodist church was never solid, financially. The original congregants used to pitch in and do whatever needed to be done, not call in or construction companies. There was no need for damage to get to this stage. The Korean congregation just don’t take care of what they have. This seems to be the way for all the methodist churches now. There is not 1 Methodist church in the area which has not been taken over by them. It was originally thought that this would be a good move (financially), but that definitely backfired.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

        Did you know that in 1980 Conference representatives suggested to the Administrative Board that the church should be torn down and replaced? They also thought a parking lot was a good idea.

        In 1960 there were over 300 active members. By 1980 there were about 50.

        • Barkingspider7

          I didn’t know that – where do you find all of this interesting information?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            My family had been members since the 1950s, and were on the various boards.

          • Barkingspider7

            I’m wondering now if we might know one another?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            I’m sure we did. Ask Ned for my e-mail address. I’ll refresh your memory.

          • CantWeAllJustGetAlong

            She knows everything.

          • Barkingspider7

            I know alot because I was a church member for many years. I feel really bad about this beautiful building being destroyed

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Here’s a close up of the corner steeple.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001/4125985645/

  • Moraqe

    St Mark’s steeple is also under repair. The Presbyterian Church on Ave T and 15th is also having trouble. The only Christian denominations that are doing well financially are the most extreme versions. Everyone else is dying. This growth of Megachurches isn’t a sign of vitality they are a sign of decay. I may feel sad at the passing of pretty old buildings, but I don’t regret the passing of what they served.

    • Anonymous

      Big difference, St. Mark’s steeple is under repair, not being demolished. It will still be standing for many many years.

      • Barkingspider7

        It tells you somewhere in this blog that some of the tiles were blown off of the steeple of St Marks when we had the wind/rain storms. I’m surprised it is taking so long for the repairs to be done.

        • Anonymous

          That’s only a small part of it. The main building of the church was renovated about 10 years ago, but not the tower. There’s structural working being done as well. And a major fund raising campaign running trying to raise $750K to pay for it.

          I don’t know, but I expect the scaffolding to be there for at least a year.

      • Barkingspider7

        Not being repaired. They are going to be removed and the openings covered. You have to read the article completely – there is no money to repair.

        The steeple closer to emmons avenue – you can actually see it coming away from the building

    • Barkingspider7

      The Presbyterian Church on Ave T has also been taken over by a Korean congregation since Dr. Corey died. That church too, was beautiful. Wonder what it’s like now?

  • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

    I also want to add one more comment. There are many statements below which call to fact dwindling congregations and thus lack of funds. If a church or other building of faith does not have enough worshipers or congregants to keep it open via direct donation then It has no business existing. History or not. If there aren’t enough people who NEED, use, and support this church then it deserves to fade away and be replaced with something new.

    Just because something is old, or was used by a lot of people a long time ago doesn’t mean it automatically deserves to be around and be maintained today. On the other hand it doesn’t mean it should be forgotten either.

    Before nothing is left of the place someone should put together as much information as possible for future generations to remember the place by. Joseph’s photo below is an excellent example.

  • Barkingspider7

    My father was head of pastor-parish relations, and I think that he was the guy who gave Rev Vroon the boot. I remember him talking about the minister going to be fired. Vroon is gay, not bi. He has lived with this guy Ray since before they came to Sheepshead Bay. They are still together. Google their names – Donald Vroon or Raymond Hassard. Ray was an artist and still is.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      Vroon had a Friday night gathering of some of the teenagers in the congregation. There were some outsiders as well. Several times he took one of the girls upstairs. It seemed like there was a sexual attraction between the two.

      • Jayne

        Lisanne! and Barkingspider7 I must know you both. I was a young teen at SBUMC during the Donald Vroon disaster time and my mom was part of PPRC

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

          I certainly do know you. We were both in our mid teens at the time. And as I seem to recall something Vroon said in a sermon particularly upset you, and was a factor in the decision to not extend his contract.

          Please ask Ned for my e-mail address. That way you can send me yours and I’ll refresh your memory privately.

        • Barkingspider7

          Jayne – did your last name (maiden) begin with a D??? I believe I know who you are already!

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            Ask Ned for my e-mail. address. I’ve already contacted with Jayne.(And I’m admittedly behind on that correspondence)

      • Barkingspider7

        I’ll bet that was Karyn. She loved him and Ray – a real fag hag. there was another gay guy in the church she was always hanging around with. They were just good buddies.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

          Interestingly, the person was not a church member, it was someone started a conversation with on the street and invited to the Friday “gatherings”.

  • tJJJ

    where are the bay people now? all this contsruction on churches is effecting my quality of life..

    • mother of congregant

      My mother attends service at this Methodist Church and is disgusted to read the comments blaming the Koreans for the church building’s decay. Nothing could be further from the truth. She said it sounds like they are just a bunch of prejudiced people and my mother wants to know what you learned in Church. You must have missed some key concepts.

      • Brooklyner

        I was Baptised by Rev. Gravatt in the 1970″s at Sheepsaid United Methodist Church it was a wonderful church and the congragation was warm and active.My father Howard Hogue did alot of the renovations inside and out durring that time ,including the roof and structure repair as well as painting and repair to the woodwork ,windows and doors.What a shame that this Beautiful building and congregation has declined.In moving away in the 80′s a young kid,one always thought things would stay the same.My mother,children and I visited there 5 years ago and we were shocked at the decline the Church had made.It is my hope that this place of worship be saved and continue to serve all the community,however this might not be possible.If no renovations have been made since the 70′s it is past time that things be looked into.If the Korean Methodists cant see the disrepair to the sanctuary where the worship and do the minimum of maintenance they are disrespecting their own place of worship and should be ashamed of themselves.When we attended as members there were work days and commitiees over seeing all work.No one is prejudiced here just dismayed that a place of worship that means so much to many has been disrespected by its present and past congregants to the point that saving and not supporting it is an issue.

        • Theurbanographer

          Is everyone resigned to see the steeples go, or would anyone like to help preserve them?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            It’s not our decision to make at this time. A few of us who are taking part in this discussions were members of the church, we grew up in it, and our parents had positions of responsibility in it. The church has been on weak financial footing for a very long time, Work was undertaken on “must do” projects, but repairing the steeples was not in the budget. The situation appears critical right now, if something radical isn’t undertaken soon the church could literally collapse. The cost of demolition is going to place a financial burden on the church. The cost of restoring them could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

          • Theurbanographer

            I don’t see it as dire and hopeless as you do, Lisanne.
            (-simplesatellite btw)

          • Theurbanographer

            Mainly because work hasn’t started yet and the parish is not happy about having to take them down. That could work in our favor to figuring out a way to help the building keep them.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            Most of the current parishioners do not have the sense of history that you do. The older members seem resigned to this. As I wrote earlier the cost is beyond their scope, and I do not believe that funding from outside sources will be adequate to cover this work.

            I have to be pragmatic. There’s no Irving Lundy today to balance their books or a John McKane to offer to do the reconstruction at cost. And then provide money towards the cost.

            Perhaps I should have taken a photograph of the huge crack that is splitting the front wall of the church when I had the opportunity of doing so. At thye very least that wall could collapse, possibly soon. I don’t like these realities, but they can’t be ignored.

          • Barkingspider7

            One of my friends saw a piece on the Brooklyn channel about the church. They showed the crack in the front wall – she said that it was huge and she was surprised the building hadn’t collapsed. If there were money to fix the church, it would probably have to be pretty much demolished first – tear down 3 walls, do major repair, reopen (that’s a great way to avoid permits to “build a new structure

          • Barkingspider7

            I do see it as dire and hopeless also – Lisanne and I attended that church for many years. We saw how they didn’t care, we saw this coming for quite a while.

          • Barkingspider7

            And even if the repair work is done to preserve the steeples, do you think that the congregation will do anything to keep everything in good shape? I doubt that they will do anything, just like they are doing now.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            I don’t see much of a change in their level of commitment. Eventually there will be another crisis.

          • Barkingspider7

            True. The building will eventually collapse around their feet, then they will find somewhere else to squat and destroy.

          • Anonymous

            What do you have in mind? I’d love to see them preserved and restored.

          • Theurbanographer

            I have some ideas to start with but I need to get them into a presentable form. It will require an army of volunteers. In the meantime, I’ve mailed local community leaders my feeling that they should be preserved.

          • Barkingspider7

            I would love to see them restored. I would love to see the whole building repaired and restored. I would love to help. I would also love to see the congregants of this church step up to the plate and do their fair share – have some fundraisers. We used to raise money by having dinners, christmas fairs AND PAYING OUR OFFERINGS.

            Maybe the Mormon church has the right idea. 10% of one’s earnings to support and maintain the church. I have been to several Mormon church buildings – not a dump or sty amongst them! And guess what? The congregants do all the maintainance and cleaning of the building, all on a volunteer basis.

        • Barkingspider7

          Couldn’t agree with you more. The Koreans are a bunch of irresponsible slobs who just couldn’t care about property that didn’t belong to them. They squatted there for free for too long and did nothing to help keep the property or the building nice. Even the yard around the church – the garden is gone, the grass is dead, and during weekends, that disgrace of a flea market polutes the street. The church is dead – and just about gone.

        • Gizmo

          The thing you notice is how bad the church needs a paint job in the inside. I can understand the structure is old, but there is no excuse for not having the inside painted and plastered. I am sure it can be done for a few thousand.

          Also people need to understand there are worship hours in both Korean and English. The English congregation is reduced to only about 15-20 weekly parishioners. The majority of those 15-20 are not korean. THere are a combination of blacks, fillipinos, and a few elderly whites. As a result, it is essentially the Korean Worhip hour that is mainly responsible for its maintanence.

      • Barkingspider7

        Your mother is full of crap. I went to this church for many, many years and it was kept up by the congregation. When the Koreans moved in, it became a sty. Maybe your mother can’t remember the good old days.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      I think they should be picketing every church in the neighborhood. And every temple. And any other religious institution as well. And while they’re at it, they could protest at the KofC just for good measure.

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  • Gizmo

    i attended the church, and most say when the pastor fails to inspire and motivate the congregation than expect few people to come back. I personally witnessed many people come one week and never come back. Even when asking for prayer request the pastor just rushes without looking at the 15-20 people who still come there. If they had a true inspiring pastor than they would have the numbers to generate the repairs they need.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      When was this?

      • Gizmo

        Quite recent, i was there for a few months. People talk about church attendance going down, but if you go just a couple of blocks to Ave Z and Ocean than you have St. Marks church which is still a huge congregation. If you want to say that it is an issue of Methodist Church, than go to the Methodist Church less than a mile away called the Kings Highway Methodist CHurch at Ave L East 37.

        There are nice people at the church, but if you had just a halfway decent Pastor than expect a better attendance. The guy comes in with a Korean uniform on due to Korean New Year and talks about his wife, i am sure it was of great interest to the congregation.

        BTW, Lisanne when was the last time you were there?

    • Anonymous

      can’t believe that’s an actual job….

    • Barkingspider7

      A couple of years ago, a friends niece was baptized here. The minister told her that they don’t believe in God, although they do believe in a higher source. This minister is NOT Methodist. We do believe in God. If the church would get a good minister, and don’t keep it as the Korean Methodist, but just the United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay, maybe people would come back. I would. I used to love going to church, sining in the choir, teaching sunday school. With this minister and congregation, there is nowhere to go but down. By the way, my frends niece doesn’t go here any more. Her grandmother pulled her out and is now sending her to St. James – all because of this minister.

  • Faba

    I got an idea, let’s turn it in to a Mosque :)
    Calm down you all Christ worshipers I’m only half kidding.
    Here’s how I see it:
    Their are not enough Christians attending that Church, so fixing those beautiful steeples is too pricey for that congregation. As Atheist who gets all teary every time another old building gets demolished on Sheepshead I want to propose very simple solution. Let’s close down the Church, make the building historical site and make it in to Sheephead Bay Historical Museum. I bet we can get a lot more donations to the museum than church. Think about how many Christ killers I mean Jews living in the hood. Some of them like museums and old buildings and will gladly give donations, no way they will donate to Church though. Then we can get those Muslims who want to build a Mosque few blocks a way to donate. Then we have Tsar, Waldbaums with bigger pockets. I bet Wheelers can hold some kind of event to collect some cash. For fuck sake maybe KCC History department will collect a few dollars. Next thing you know we got us pretty cool looking museum with a little garden. I want to be in charge of the garden though.

    My point is, if this place continues to be a Church we will loose the steeples, then congregation, and then the rest of the building. Let’s make it in to something everyone can enjoy. I do not want another condo in it’s place.

    Look I need those steeples. They are one of the way points back home from Wheelers. How the hell am I going to get home?

    • Vinny Boombatz

      lol dude youre funny. youre immature though, when you get here you’ll do it.

    • Anonymous

      That is Epic. You Sir. Just had a GREAT point…..

      I would vote for this.

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