Thursday, November 6, 2008

US VERSUS THEM


I read today on the Rover that the Green Church's cornerstone has been stolen. You can read more about the theft here or at the Brooklyn Paper.

But what I find disturbing is Pastor Emerick's quote -
“This is consistent with the attitude that has been directed towards us, but this is theft. We want it back. We want to keep it because it is ours.”
And he wonders why the community isn't crazy about him.

Instead of saying the cornerstone is a part of the history of Bay Ridge or the community, he instead made it about his congregation. Yes I know the cornerstone belongs to the Methodist Church, but it seems that the hurdle of the battle for the Green Church was"us" versus "them." The congregation versus the community. The preservationists versus the church.

The church is torn down. A new church, hopefully, will be built (along with some swanky condos). But still Pastor Emerick can't get passed the "us" versus "them" attitude. We all want that cornerstone to be a part of the new building. It is part of the history of Bay Ridge and of the Methodist church. But until Pastor Emerick can rise above the past (or his perception of the past) and talk and act as if he and the church are an actual part of the community, it will continue to be "us" versus "them."


Photo courtesy: The Daily News

9 comments:

Ron said...

It's just like when the original news of the cornerstone was published in the papers.

Emerick was quoted as saying, “We’ll tell the demolition company that we’d like to see if it’s there,” Mr. Emerick said. “We have a rough idea where it would be, if it’s there. So we’re expecting to be able to look for it. But again, we don’t want folks to think it’s their business. It’s really the congregation’s business.”

He never could just bring himself to say, 'Thank you for bringing this to our attention.'

It's a shame. Some people . . .

Walter said...

If I were in their shoes, I'd be on the defensive too.

From day one everyone's been an expert on what the church should do with the property, how they should leverage it, etc... all very well and good when you tell other people how they should spend their money.

If only being a member of the congregation was as easy as being a preservationist, where you basically just sign your name to a piece of paper and *presto* you're member of the "Committee," born-again good citizen, and authority on all things local preservation.

Ron -

Someone comes in your house and pisses on your rug, you thank them?

Remember to have me over some time.

Ron said...

It was never about how to spend their money. It was always about trying to find a way to get them the money and they 'new' chruch that they wanted and at the same time find a way to keep the building from being destroyed.

No one is questioning the fact that the congregation couldn't/wouldn't pay to restore the building and many options were offered, including:

1) pay them the 9.75M (same as they have now),

2) reserve a part of the property to build a new church (same as they have now) and

3) preserve the building, constructing 'affordable' housing (as opposed to demolishing the building and constructing 72 units of 'market' priced housing as with the deal that they currently have).

The one request of the congregation for this to have played out was a request that the congregation delay demolition for about 90 days so that the developer could confirm that he could get his funding in place for the affordable part of the project from state and federal authorities (in light of the current real estate and economic situation).

The congregation did/does not care about this community or the historic value of the building. They have a deal that already gives them what they want. It would appear that their attitude is: 'why should we delay 90 days to save a building when we already have what we want.'

The thing that most people seem to forget is that there are always ways for situations like this to be win/win for all sides.

It takes a desire to do so. That was missing in this instance.

Lets all hope that in light of the current economic & real estate situation, the corner of Ovington and 4th does not remain a fenced in, rodent infested, vacant lot for the next few years.

ps And no you may not come in and pee on my rug (I already have a cat who does this! -- don't ask!)

albertusmagnus said...

He might be deeply uncharming, but I can't blame the guy.

From the start, the GreenChurchSavers acted like the place was "theirs."
Their early ideas would've - whoops! - driven the methodists out of the neighborhood so that the building could be an arts center, museum, whatever.
Then came ideas that woulda compromised them $$-wise, or even killed the place off while they waited for some yet-unborn Dream Donor, or started from Square One with iffy new plans in a crappy economy.

The Savers acted as if
-- the cornerstone and all were also "theirs", and implied that the methodists were vulgar twits who couldn't be trusted with the stuff.
-- the burial vault were "theirs," and as if burial-moving was a mortal sin. Except that, as stories noted: Those burials had been moved en masse TO the G.C. to begin with. (I flipped when one Saver griped that the unburials weren't "public" enough, as if close-up photo-ops woulda been normal and respectful.)

If someone nosed into my business that much, tried to co-opt and-or redistribute my assets, and trashed me publicly for a coupla years, you betcha I'd get testy and set some "ours" and "theirs" boundaries. And I'd be a helluva lot less diplomatic about it.

Anonymous said...

Small but pertinent point -

Throughout that warfare, the 'preservationists' kept calling the place 'green church, green church. green church,' as if it were publicly owned or nondenominational scenery.

They ignored the church people's repeated requests that we all use its correct name -- 'Bay Ridge United Methodist' -- since they found 'green church' disrespectful.

You don't win friends when you intentionally misname them. You imply that their wishes aren't worth #$@%, that YOU "own" them somehow and can call them any damned thing you want.

The local pols, being smart pols, DID catch onto this. Gentile and Golden eventually made a big point of using the legit name, though it was a big mouthful compared to 'green church.'

Ron said...

This only goes to prove that the preservationist movement in Bay Ridge needs to be better developed.

Their goals are to be commended even if the method used needed refinement.

The committee's official name was "the Committee to save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church" and never the Green Church Committee. All official correspondence used the correct name specifically for the reason you mentioned.

If there was representation otherwise it was due to carelessness and overzealousness. Had you been involved, I'm sure that the communications would have been more eloquent.

As to your contention that:

The Savers acted as if
""-- the cornerstone and all were also "theirs", and implied that the methodists were vulgar twits who couldn't be trusted with the stuff.""

I am the person who brought the existance of the time capsule to the attention of the congregation and the pastor via the press.

My concern was two-fold: a) that the congregation was aware of its existance and b) that it didn't get squished with the rest of the building. It is the history of their congregation; it is the history of our community's heritage.

I knew of the time capsule because I took the time to search historical archives of the period and found a Brooklyn Eagle article from 1899 describing the contents and placement of the capsule.


The only person who created an "us vs. them" situation was the pastor himself -- there was never any "this is ours" from the preservation community at all.

Emerick, after admitting that he had no knowledge of the existance of the capsule, informed the press, "we don’t want folks to think it’s their business. It’s really the congregation’s business."

This is where I lost it and felt that a simple thank you would have been in order.

This was a difficult situation for all involved. However if the involved parties ALL wanted to find a solution that was good for the congregation as well as the community, a solution could have been found.

Sometimes you can get all you want as well as making your neighbors happy. Wasn't there something about -love your neighbor as you love yourself- ??

It doesn't hurt to try.

Anonymous said...

"The only person who created an "us vs. them" situation was the pastor himself -- there was never any "this is ours" from the preservation community at all..."

Ron, with all due respect, that's YOUR perception.

To the spectators at large, you guys do a hell of a job making it seem like these are a bunch of bumbling fools who don't know how to handle their own affairs.

The whopper is right here, tho...

"This is where I lost it and felt that a simple thank you would have been in order."

Ron, you, along with everyone else seems to have 'lost it' early on... when the church really became about your 'feelings,' sense of being 'wronged,'and not about the congregation, or a true 'win - win.'

Which is precisely why any sane person would assume your overtures to be adversarial, or, at the very least, thoughtless and one sided.

Anonymous said...

7:25 AM said: "To the spectators at large, you guys do a hell of a job making it seem like these are a bunch of bumbling fools who don't know how to handle their own affairs."

I agree. Due to insularity (or poor organization), the activists seemingly didn't know, or care, how their message was perceived, or how often it made people think "huh??" instead of "hurrah."

The gist we-the-public got was: "Let US control the property, because these church members are venal and dumb as doorposts." It didn't help when they tarred the whole Methodist organization as greedy, implied that the minister was lining his own pockets, and put a nasty spin on everything the church did, via some snark-attack of the week.

Because a lot of us know how churches work, or about the tough decisions they face, so the attacks looked unfair or ignorant. Plus, the activists just regarded the place as a "building," and didn't understand why their ideas would conflict with the church's purposes.

It looked REALLY bad when they questioned the church-people's Christianity or encouraged people to attend some other church ... like they wanted the church to fail, be driven out of Bay Ridge or be forced to sell cheap.

And though they framed it as Idealists vs. Moneybags, every sane adult knew that scenery-saving impacted property values.

The tactics left a very bad impression that got worse over time. It was like: Hey, this means some ad-hoc group of unaccountables can swoop out of nowhere and bully my house of worship, or me, into doing their will (to enhance THEIR assets) ... even if we're within the law, bear all the risk, and would be damaged by the result.

It was terribly wrongheaded, amateurish activism. In evaluating it, you can't just go by the sanitized, on-paper, rational aspect -- you have to see what the public saw, and how emotive loose-cannons derailed the campaign and shaped the church's and our (the public's) response.

Anonymous said...

ron said - 'The committee's official name was "the Committee to save the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church" and never the Green Church Committee' ... 'if there was representation otherwise it was due to carelessness and overzealousness," ... and "Love your neighbor as yourself."

"Love your neighbor" doesn't mean "do whatever the neighbors want" or "their scenery trumps your purpose." Also, the guy who said "love your neighbor" never built any edifices at all, and said that faith should center on "spirit and truth," not on a building.
I also think the church members were pretty forebearing, considering the un-loving junk that was being spewed about them - unofficially, of course.

As for the rest of it: "Carelessness and overzealousness" were the whole problem (and not just re: picky stuff like the church's name).
As any veteran activist knows - to win hearts and minds, you must be credible, can't get sloppy, and must rein in the flakes (the ubiquitous types who use activism as Inner-Child venting therapy).

This group didn't do that. It looked as if no grownups were in charge and-or as if the goal justified any means, from pot-banging to nutty or offensive remarks by freewheeling rank and file.

One minor example: No matter WHAT the committee's letterhead said, group adherents consistently called that place 'Green Church' - in every letter-to-editor, flyer, poster, and remark I read, and in the street-demo 'Save the Green Church!' chanting that I stumbled into.
If my own church (which isn't in Bay Ridge, BTW) were involved: I'd view it as hostile if some group's loose cannons persistently reduced us to 'the Gray Church' - a no-name, unpeopled prop, of value only as their scenery - then called us crooks, greedy dupes, and grave-desecrators, and effectively encouraged our demise. I sure wouldn't trust their concept of win-win -- or of love.

Bottom line is: Activists shouldn't assume that intent (or letterhead) reflects reality. If you don't patrol the details and check how you're perceived, you'll be killed by your loosest cannons.