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Brooklyn historian sees 'ray of hope in $300,000 state grant for 'cultural-educational shrine'
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New Utrecht Reformed Church

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Friends of Historic New Utrecht

Eds: Photos of the inside of the church undergoing restoration can be obtained from Robert Buonvino, 1-718-234-9268.


BROOKLYN - A local historical organization has been notified that New York State is granting $300,000 toward the restoration and repair of a unique Brooklyn building that until recently served as a "living history center" for thousands of New York City school children.

"This grant is for us a 'ray of hope,'" said Robert Buonvino, president of the Friends of Historic New Utrecht, a group of volunteers from many walks of life interested in promoting and preserving Brooklyn's cultural and educational heritage.

"This is the break we have been looking for," Mr. Buonvino said of the recent announcement by Gov. Pataki that state funds will be used toward external renovation of the New Utrecht Reformed Church, between 83rd and 84th Sts. on 18th Ave., in Bensonhurst.

The church building, on a site where George Washington once visited, dates from 1828. The church, formerly Dutch Reformed and now in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), was founded in 1677. Until late 2003, the building, with its historic architecture, stained-glass windows and pipe organ, has housed numerous public school programs, many centering on the early history of the nation.

"In this 'cultural-educational shrine,'" the historian said, "we have brought together thousands of school children, placing them in a setting that 'cries out' with the kind of knowledge it is essential for them to experience. Many of them are children of immigrants new to this country. Brooklyn always has been a home to people looking for the freedom our nation is based on."

Republican State Sen. Martin Golden also praised the governor and state parks commissioner for recognizing "the need to keep historic places like this available to the community."

Architects and engineers put the cost of repair and restoration of the Brooklyn and national landmark at $1.8 million.

Concerning the need for much more funding, in addition to the state Environmental Protection Fund grant, Mr. Buonvino said, "We are asking that everyone concerned about passing on our legacy here in Brooklyn participate." He has urged assistance not only from state, city and federal lawmakers but also from private organizations and individuals.

People interested in learning more about Brooklyn's early history and participating in the restoration are invited to call 1-718-256-7173 or log onto www.historicnewutrecht.org. Also, inqueries may be sent to mail@historicnewutrecht.org.


bhpr especially for churches services are donated.

June 2004


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