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Century-old Brooklyn church will give way to low-income housing

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The Catholic diocese of Brooklyn and neighborhood preservationists have fought over the church for years

It looks like the fight to preserve a Brooklyn church has come to an end: The New York Times reports that Our Lady of Loreto, a turn-of-the-20th-century Catholic church in Brownsville, will be demolished, per plans on file with the Departmant of Buildings. That move makes way for low-income housing to eventually rise on the site.

But, as the Times notes, this is merely the latest chapter in "a series of clashes and compromises" between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and a group of activists who hoped to save the aging structure. The church was built in 1908, and according to Save Our Lady of Loreto, the group that has worked to preserve the building, it’s not only a testament to the history of Italian-Americans in Brooklyn, but also to the history of Brownsville itself.

One of the group’s members, Miriam Robertson, told the Times: "[Brownsville] has had a very rich history throughout all of the changing nationalities. Our Lady of Loreto is a piece of that history. Why would the Catholic Church want to destroy that?"

The short answer: lack of interest. Without the congregation to support it, the church closed in 2009; at the time, the Brooklyn diocese wanted to tear it down to build affordable housing, but preservationists fought back. Eventually, the two groups agreed to keep the church itself—and hopefully use it for a community center—while building affordable housing on nearby sites.

Those 64 units opened at the end of 2013, but the church itself has been all but abandoned—per the Times, the diocese issued a request for proposals for the space, but no one applied. Preservationists, however, argue that the diocese was not especially interested in discussing the future of the site. "No one in the diocese would even entertain a conversation," historian and Save Our Lady of Loreto member Flavia Alaya told the Times.

"It would be irresponsible, neglectful and dangerous to leave the site abandoned," said Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, the chief executive for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which leased the property from the diocese. "Therefore, despite high hopes to preserve the property, we will move ahead with plans to demolish the site." Demolition is expected to begin in the next few months.