The Planning Board of Albany, New York, has sided with neighbors who objected to the application of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church to tear down their deteriorating and vacant rectory to make way for a prayer garden and parking lot.
The Pine Hills Neighborhood Association and Historic Albany Foundation have fought the plan, arguing that the church shouldn’t be allowed to tear the building down just because it no longer had a use for it.
Neighbors lobbied for the church to restore the structure just beyond the edge of The College of Saint Rose’s campus or sell it to someone who would.
A church official said St. Andrew’s parish could not afford the rehab costs and had not gained permission from the Episcopal Diocese of Albany to sell it. Even if it could sell the property, the church said it worried that it might fall into unsavory uses and become a nuisance sitting just feet from the parish hall.
Since the church first applied to demolish it a year ago the building has continued to deteriorate, becoming an eyesore and, in May, accumulating city code violations.
On the one hand this looks a case where the parish and the local neighborhood groups could not see eye to eye. On the other hand, if the parish can’t update their spaces to offer the amenities that people expect when they go to a church, what’s the neighborhood going to be stuck with? An empty church!
As more and more mainline churches close and/or move out of their historic neighborhoods, what’s a church (and a neighborhood) to do?