Don’t demolish historic church: CB5

The Pilgram United Church of Christ at 1800 Grand Concourse has been sorely neglected, but members of Community Board 5 want to save it from demolition.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

Members of Community Board 5 have ambitious plans for a historic church.

The visually impressive Pilgrim United Church of Christ building at 1800 Grand Concourse has been neglected for years, and is carrying many Department of Buildings violations.

The board’s chair of the Cultural Committee, Anthony Nacerino, has a vision of the beautiful building being restored and transformed into a cultural venue for the Mount Hope neighborhood.

But the clock may be ticking on the building’s future.

CB 5 district manager Xavier Rodriguez said he’s learned that there are plans in the works for the property, and speculation is that the plans involve razing the church.

“There’s talk of putting a supportive housing project on that site,” said Rodriguez.

Nacerino and others on the board are hoping they can stop those plans before they come to fruition.

“I’m not against supportive housing, but I’m against seeing this building demolished,” said Nacerino.

The church was constructed on the Grand Concourse in 1910 in the Colonial Revival style by famed New York architects Francis L.V. Hoppin and Terrence A. Koen. Other examples of their work include the former New York City Police Headquarters and the Albany County Courthouse.

“This is a piece of their legacy,” said Nacerino about the building.

Creating a cultural center for community use could also provide a needed boost in moral to the neighborhood, said Nacerino, which currently has no cultural attractions but is saturated with supportive housing and other services.

“What we are in desperate need of, especially in this district, is a cultural venue,” he said.

He pictures an all-encompassing arts center, with the main church set up with a stage for performing arts. The side buildings could be used for arts classroom or exhibits.

“The possibilities for that building are tremendous,” said Nacerino.

The district manager cautioned that intervening in plans for privately owned property is extremely challenging, and that starting a cultural center from scratch takes a lot of money and a master plan.

“It’s an idea,” said Rodriguez.

But Nacerino is trying hard to make that idea a reality. The board has been reaching out to local elected officials about the cause, as well as non-profits that might be interested in occupying the space.

Nacerino and community board chair Dr. Bola Omotosho also recently appeared on Bronxnet’s BronxTalk to get people engaged, and there is a petition at chang‌e.org titled ‘Petitioning People in favor of saving 1800/1808 Grand Concourse.’

“It’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous building,” said Nacerino.

The church is currently owned by the Pilgrim United Church of Christ, the New York Conference confirmed, and a small group still holds services in a side building.

They could not confirm plans for the building, but acknowledged the speculation.

The property owner could not be reached by press time.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwill‌iams@‌cnglo‌cal.com.

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