Updated 08/01/2012 12:27 PM
Brooklyn Church Steeples Removed After Deadly Scaffold Collapse
Workers have begun taking down four steeples atop the Christ Church in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn where a lightning strike last week caused scaffolding to fall onto a 61-year-old man, killing him. NY1's Rocco Vertuccio filed the following report.
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Residents who have long admired the Christ Church, which has towered over the Cobble Hill neighborhood for 170 years, watched painfully Wednesday as crews slowly tore parts of it down.
"Sad for our block, sad for our area," said one onlooker.
The church is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. It was built in 1842, a city landmark that residents say made the neighborhood stand out from all others.
"It punctuates the block. It's just this architectural monument. Everybody looks at it everyday and it just towers over the street it's just beautiful," said one Cobble Hill resident.
Despite its beauty, inspectors have ruled it unsafe. Last Thursday night, when lightning struck one of the steeples, stones came crashing down on top of a scaffolding. That scaffolding collapsed just as 61-year-old Richard Schwartz walked by, killing him.
The scaffolding was put in place because, ironically, the church was getting ready to restore the building.
"I think it's the most beautiful church in this part of Brooklyn. It is a sorry moment," said one Cobble Hill resident.
Because the top part of the church is not structurally sound, crews are tearing down all four of the church's 70 foot tall stone steeples.
Part of the church's 117 foot tall bell tower is also coming down a stone at a time to make sure no one else gets hurt and no other buildings are damaged. It's a tedious job that's also an emotional one even for the most seasoned construction worker.
"Yeah I'm a Catholic and this is an Episcopal Church. But I think God is God, it is a little painful," said Crane Operator Aldo Rivara.
The diocese says the church is insured but it has not decided whether to restore the building to what it once was. Many in the neighborhood, though, are hoping it can be done.
"You would have this castle-like structure across the street from you, 75 feet away. You would be away from the noise and the street and now it's going to be gone," said one Cobble Hill resident.
The demolition is expected to take about four to six weeks. The diocese says the main goal now is to make the building safe again for church services to resume soon.