Bring up the Bodies

East Village Church and Possible Cemetery Look Headed to Demolition

East Village preservation groups made little headway in their battle to save a local church after the Landmarks Preservation Commission said it could not order an archeological survey to determine if a graveyard exists on the site.

Developer Doug Steiner bought the property at 181 Avenue A last year for $41 million and has plans for a 140-unit rental apartment building on the grounds of Mary Help of Christians. Preservationists hoping to spare the former church, which opened in 1917, thought the revelation that a cemetery was once located at the site could stop the wrecking ball.

The Mary Help of Christians building, center. (Credit: EV Grieve)

The Mary Help of Christians building, center. (Credit: EV Grieve)

“We did hear back from the Landmark Preservation Commission that they abdicated all responsibility to even require an archeological survey,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told EV Grieve. “So [Mr.] Steiner may end up digging up bodies, and the public may never know.”

In May, a listing for 181 Avenue revealed the property would include 11,356 square feet of retail space.

“Thus far,” Mr. Berman said, “common sense, decency, reasonable alternatives, and appeals to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to do their job have not stopped Steiner from moving ahead with his cemetery-condos plan.”

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