Italian Church in Brooklyn to Be Demolished?

St. Rosalia Church at 14th Avenue and 63rd Street in Dyker Heights (Screen shot via Google Maps)

[Update: According to Brooklyn Reporter, St. Rosalia has been demolished and a new public school is set to be built on the former site of the church.]

A preservationist committee known as the Guardians of the Guardian wants NYC to landmark a Dyker Heights church that once served Italian immigrants before, they fear, the Brooklyn Diocese knocks it down to sell the land.

In 2016, St. Rosalia Church stopped holding religious services due to “significance financial hardships” as the Diocese ran both St. Rosalia and Basilica of Regina Pacis within the same parish. Fears of St. Rosalia being demolished rose a few weeks ago when a church bulletin announced the sale of the lot – without St. Rosalia on it, an indication it would be knocked down, Julianne McShane writes in Brooklyn Paper. Fran Vella-Marrone and Carl Esposito, both Guardians members and Dyker Heights residents, spoke about the church’s history.

Italian immigrants founded the church, named after the patron of the Italian city of Palermo, in 1902. The parishoners then founded Regina Pacis — which translates to “queen of peace” — nearly 50 years later to thank the saint for the American victory in World War II, making it all the more cruel that the “mother church” of the parish is the one that will be bulldozed, according to Vella-Marrone and Esposito.

“This little church was there long before Regina Pacis was, and was responsible for that big church being there,” Esposito said.

McShane notes that “prayers for St. Rosalia to be saved are not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.” Find out more at Brooklyn Paper.

In noting that the Guardians had submitted a request to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Feb. 15 for the property to be evaluated, McShane added that Brooklyn Reporter first covered the landmarking bid.

In their story, reporter Meaghan McGoldrick writes that the Sister of Mercy had sold the 140,000-square-foot property to an unknown buyer late last year. This prompted residents, officials and Guardians of the Guardian to call for the preservation of the historic church.

Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy and community outreach at the Historic Districts Council, explains the connection between St. Rosalia and the largest Italian festival in Brooklyn.

“St. Rosalia is the patron saint of Palermo [a city in Sicily],” she explained, citing “a direct connection” to Bensonhurst’s yearly celebration of the Feast of Santa Rosalia, a multi-day festival which dates back to 1624 in Italy, and to 1975 on 18th Avenue. It is the largest Italian-American celebration in the borough.

Carroll also said that, even though it was eventually absorbed by the much larger Regina Pacis, St. Rosalia “still represents the mother church.”

Read more on what led up to the call to save St. Rosalia and the historic significance of the church for the Italian community, at Brooklyn Reporter.

Also see coverage from Brooklyn publications on an earlier fight to save another century-old Italian church, Our Lady of Loreto.

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  1. Pingback: – ‘Il Centro’ of the World in Bensonhurst

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