Hebron SDA Church and School
Hebron SDA Church and School
Standing on my roof, I see you standing there. I’m impressed by your structure. Just as I was the first day I discovered your being. It was December at that time. Snow was on the ground and carols reverberated from your stained glass windows. I didn’t see your flaws then. I was just happy to live next door to something so peaceful. I saw your history, but I didn’t know it yet. You reminded me of institutional structures from days gone by. I was impressed and curious.
Now I see the problems that you face. I’ve done my due diligence. I’ve spent hours researching, questioning, and attending community board meetings trying to figure out what to do with you. You’ve been standing ground since 1889. Your lot measures 89,453 square feet, close to two acres. The actual square footage inside your walls is over an acre. Built originally by the architect Merecin Thomas for the Methodist Home for the Aged and Infirmed.
There is not one address here. A plot of land that takes up half a city block doesn’t have to have one address. The Hebron SDA Bilingual School lists your address as 920 Park Place. The church and choir, Jordan River SDA Church lists the same. The LLC bought in your name for a residential building on your property calls you 959 Sterling Place. Other addresses associated with your presence include; 201-225 New York Ave, 914-920 Park Place, and 941-981 Sterling Place.
From an article written in the Standard Union from Sunday November 7, 1909, “The home is located at the corner of New York Avenue and Park Place, and is one of the finest institutional properties in Brooklyn. The property is in the centre of one of the most select residential districts of the borough…”
The article was written to raise money for you the first time, when you first outgrew your original use. That was before the chapel, from which the carols ring so clear.
You stood as this home for years, until your structure again was limited and you were outgrown. In 1976 the home moved to a newer structure and you were purchased by the North Eastern Conference of 7th Day Adventists Corporation in 1978 for $150,000. Your next journey as an institutional hub was for a school.
You have been occupied by The Hebron SDA Bilingual School (N-8) since. The school itself was established for Haitian students from Pre-K to 8th grade and started in 1975 with four students by the late Pastor Mathieu Bermingham. You accepted Haitian students after the storms. Today the student body is around 180 students. Though I have reached out several times for comment and a tour, I have not yet been inside your walls.
There are so many different sides to see of this building. Most of the time, I see it from standing on my roof. The back side. More and more I notice details I haven’t seen before. I come to my roof every day and look at you.
There’s a tree that stands in the backyard. It stands in a circle, surrounded by a driveway and the overgrown grasses that claim your backyard. I can only imagine how much more this tree knows than I.
There’s a blue minivan sitting in your parking lot, sinking into your overgrown grasses. There are trees coming out of the fender. I can only assume there are plants growing inside. Reminders to the days in the early 2000s when your roof was rescued after a tree was spotted growing out of it. You constantly face issues of growth and overgrowth. Growth is the backbone for your story.
Though the school occupies you, there are many pieces of your structure that are in disrepair and have grown vacant. On your back right wing from where I stand, there are close to 20 windows boarded up. Recent building permits allow for their repair, but when it comes down to it, only part of the building is being used, and that’s the part that I don’t understand. You have a being and a presence. A structure with so much history. After all, you are one of the most significant buildings in this neighborhood; why shouldn’t you be used to your full capacity.
Over the last couple of years, I am not the only one with this idea. Several neighborhood forums think of ideas and plans for your use from residents, and in December of 2017 a contract was signed to begin plans and developments for a residential property on your lot. Legal rigamarole has begun. Title insurances have been filed, an easement in July of this year, and several rezoning plans to boot.
You’re ready to get to the next steps. Just waiting for approval by a number of government agencies with acronyms and the backlash of community supporters that fight it. Said acronymed agencies have already approved other high story buildings by the same developer. With the name of Hope Street Capital, this is their forte. They’ve worked to create residential buildings out of religious structures before. For better or worse, we might be getting a new neighbor.
An 84- foot tall neighbor, mind you, that holds 201 rental units with a recreation space, rooftop amenities lounge, storage, a fitness center, and a pool, but at least you won’t be going anywhere for awhile. The developer has no plans for demolition and plans to keep you.
Regardless, I chose to admire your beautiful architectural structure. There are buildings across the street that are taller, but you have more character, more shape, more life. Each of the peaks through the windows stands for itself and the story that the colors tell through time. Turned copper in the ducts surrounds the brick, the stained glass of the windows matches. The blue tarp that covers the garbage in your yard, the blue of the bus stop outside the fence, the blue paint on the base of the building all work together, especially when the sky is blue.
My hope is that you can keep your history and continue to grow within the community that you were raised in and continue to grow forward. As for our new neighbor, I ask you, my dear reader….
Is it the worst to have new neighbors that keep pieces of Crown Heights intact? Like a new roommate you were never really ready for but have to live with anyway. Even, if to just pay the bills. And if not, what are you willing to do about it?
– Carla McAlary