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Studies show $1.8 million needed for repair, restoration at New Utrecht Church
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New Utrecht Reformed Church

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Eds: Pictures showing need for repair of wood and stone structure at the church may be obtained from Bob Buonvino at 1-718-234-9268.


BROOKLYN - If the New Utrecht Reformed Church in Brooklyn were to run a new flag up its famous "Liberty Pole" on Liberty Pole Boulevard (84th Street) and 18th Avenue, it might carry the one word: "Help!"

Recent architectural and engineering studies have shown that repair and restoration of the 175-year-old stone and wood structure will cost $1.8 million, according to Robert M. Buonvino, president of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, far more than at first thought. His organization, which provides educational and cultural activities for the youth and adults in Bensonhurst and beyond, is looking for new ways to expand its fund-raising campaign.

"We need financial help immediately," Mr. Buonovino said, "to preserve and protect this rare treasure among our nation's historic places. The roof and other parts of the structure need immediate attention. At first, we thought most of our attention could be on the bell tower."

The church building and parish house, along with a cemetery and grounds dating back to Colonial Days, are within the Reformed Church in America denomination (RCA), formerly Dutch Reformed. The minister is the Rev. Terry Troia, who also is Executive Director of Project Hospitality, a service for the homeless and other needy on Staten Island.

While the church's "old Dutch cemetery," itself an educational resource for high school, college students and historians, goes back even further, the New Utrecht Reformed Church, which still has "little Dutch doors" leading to its pews, a magnificent pipe organ and world famous stained-glass windows, had its beginnings in 1677.

On Aug. 26, the current church building, dedicated in 1828 on a spot where George Washington once visited, will be 175 years old. Much of the damage has been caused by water, Mr. Buonvino explained. "As yet," he continued, "we have had no success getting any grant assistance from New York State, despite all that this American treasure has contributed as a community resource center and as an educational source of 'living history' for school children and adults all through the years."

He spoke of a "critical and serious plight" confronting the landmark where hundreds of public school students visit as part of the Friends' educational and cultural programs each year. "We are looking to the business community, state and federal governments, all organizations and individuals who see value in preserving this unique Brooklyn site."

The church grounds are easily identifiable from miles around by the "Liberty Pole" on its front lawn, 106 feet high with a "Liberty Eagle" on top. This is the sixth pole placed there. The first went up in 1783 when the British were leaving the shores of what was to become the United States of America.

"Immigrants arriving in Brooklyn find visits to the New Utrecht grounds especially meaningful," said Mr. Buonvino, himself recently named to be one of the Grand Marshals of this year's 22nd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Parade. The Federation of Italian American Organizations (FIAO), parade sponsor, celebrates what it terms "the rich contributions of Italian-Americans to our society and the dynamic vibrancy of our community here in Brooklyn" while it "fosters brotherhood among the many ethnics in the community." The parade has the church and its "Liberty Pole" as the terminus for its line of march.

More information on the history of the sections of Brooklyn that used to be in the town of New Utrecht and on where contributions can be made toward repair and restoration of the New Utrecht sites is available at Friends of Historic New Utrecht, 1-718-256-7173 and 1-718-234-9268.


PR services donated by bhpr Especially For Churches August 2003


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