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New Utrecht Reformed Church

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Immediate Release

New Utrecht Reformed Church and the Liberty Pole on Sept. 11, 2003. (Photo by Bruce Hodgman)

New Utrecht Reformed Church and the Liberty Pole on Sept. 11, 2003. (Photo by Bruce Hodgman)

Back in November 1952, New York City lost a house built about 1664, much to the sorrow of Brooklyn historians and others, including the Rev. Martin Paul Luther, pastor of the New Utrecht Reformed Church. The minister strongly criticized the Parks Department for tearing down the Van Pelt Manor House, built by a Dutch farmer, and which had fallen into disrepair and become hazardous. He said the city had "no moral right" to destroy something that told of the city's background "as history books cannot tell the story."

Today, Robert Buonvino, president of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, is sounding alarm over what he fears will be the same fate for the church where Rev. Luther was pastor.

The New Utrecht Reformed Church was founded in 1677. Its building, which dates from 1828, was closed recently out of concern that the structure would not survive the winter. Church services are being held in the adjacent Parish House, near 18th Ave. between 83rd and 84th Streets, in Bensonhurst. The Van Pelt Manor had been only a block away.           

"It would be tragic if we, as Brooklyn residents today, and as a city, state and nation were to lose this historic treasure," Mr. Buonvino said. "And yet," he added, "funds to prevent such a tragedy have been slow in coming." The cost of repair has been estimated at $1.8 million.

New Utrecht is within the Reformed Church in America denomination (RCA). The minister is the Rev. Terry Troia, who also is Executive Director of Project Hospitality, an organization which assists the homeless and others in need, based in Staten Island.

Until the doors were closed, the church building had been a center for "living history lessons" for school children in Brooklyn and other boroughs. Now, Mr. Buonvino said, his organization, dedicated to preserving the culture and history of the city through education, will "continue to carry the history lessons" out to the schools and other public places, including libraries. He conceded, however, that the jewel in the center of this picture of  Brooklyn's living history "cannot be replaced - it must be repaired."

He envisions, eventually, making available to the general public on the site a restoration similar to those in Boston. "We have much of the country's history here, too," he said. "Unlike what happened in 1952, we must not let this treasure slip away."

Persons interested in joining the historic organization, composed of Brooklyn residents with a wide variety of career backgrounds, are invited to call 1-718-234-9268 or 1-718-256-7173 or visit www.historicnewutrecht.org.

### pr services donated by bhprEspeciallyForChurches
January 2004

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