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Planning to local parish: fix up or sell your rectory but don’t knock it down

Planning to local parish: fix up or sell your rectory but don’t knock it down

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.

Timesunion.com reports:

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?

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William F. Hammond

As to “… intended use …” The building came to the church as an existing structure on land adjacent to the church donated for the construction of a parish hall (built in the 50s) with restrictions on the use of the structure. It was used as the rectory until 1976. By that time the idea of tenant rectors living in church-owned property was no longer in vogue. Moreover, the property has no off-street parking in a neighborhood with severe parking congestion. The structure sits in the corner of an “L” formed by the church and the parish hall with very little space to spare. It is very close to buildings on both sides. Its small backyard has no possibility of street access by car. As I understand things, it cannot legally be sold, and even if it could, it would not be suitable as middle class housing because of its position on the lot. The neighborhood is middle class.

Richard Angelo

what is troubling to is that there are clearly in Albany many more buildings in disreair and falling down in areas of the city that should be occupying the time of these Historic committees and Planning Boards than a small house whose tear down would harm no one yet enhance the area.. cutting of their nose the spite their face as I see it!

Richard Angelo

@ Clint,, I am not sure of the details on that.. but it clearly is a problem that is troubling..

Clint Davis

Would the fine if you knocked it down be more $$$$ than fixing it up?

Richard Angelo

As a member and former Vestry meembr of St Andrews I would like to say that this article does not tell the whole story. The rectory has not been used as such for over 30 years and has up until a year or so ago been used as transitional housing by Catholic Charities. The upkeep of it was part of their job which they did not do and efforts to work with them failed and they they moved out leaving the parish with an eyesore of a building unusable nor needed. When other uses failed to come thru it was decided the church should tear it down for much needed green space. The neighborhhod is an urban area the once was a more residential area which it still is to some degree . The Neighborhood Ass’n and other groups sought to have the parish keep the building with unpspecif reasons other than it was a house.. it is not histotic . The parish has been a good neighbor for many years serving free community dinners, a thrift shop as well asopening doors for community groups to rent or use when needed. I believe the Neighborhhod Ass’n and Historic Albany are being selfish and not seeing the further impact that using the parish’s financial resources to repair a building no longer usable would strain any further minsitry the parish can do in the neighborhood and city. In addition the Planning Board held its meeting WITHOUT informing the parish of such a meeting, clearly not a”friendly” thing to do!

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