Reflecting Neighborhood Fears, a Historic Harlem Church is Being Torn Down

A historic Harlem church is being destroyed as activists fear gentrification is proving disastrous to the neighborhood. Uptown houses of worship are being sold for millions of dollars, including one that holds a special place in African-American history. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

The funeral for Malcolm X was held at Faith Temple Church of God In Christ.

On February 27, 1965, thousands packed Amsterdam Avenue to bid farewell to the civil rights activist, who was slain only a mile uptown at the Audubon Ballroom. Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy.

Amid bomb threats, Faith Temple was the only church that agreed to host Malcolm's funeral.

City records show the shuttered building has been quietly sold to a private developer for $2.5 million. Now, it's destined for the wrecking ball. On Thursday, work crews started gutting the historic sanctuary.

Michael Henry Adams of Save Harlem Now worked hard to get Faith Temple on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It's just deplorable to me," he said. "For me, I feel a tremendous frustration that I, as a black person, that I or no one else seems to be able to do anything to even preserve something as significant as this."

Faith Temple is not the only church in jeopardy. Christmas decorations still line the fence around Mount Calvary United Methodist Church on Edgecombe Avenue. The majestic neo-gothic style sanctuary closed shortly after the holiday season. The congregation now shares space with its neighbor, St. Mark's.

"It makes me want to cry because a site like this shouldn't have to close," said Valerie Bradley of Save Harlem Now.

Activists with Save Harlem Now say they want the city or anyone to step in and save Harlem churches before it's too late.

"Congregations are shrinking, revenues and resources are shrinking and, in many cases, are incapable of keeping up with their properties," said Angel Ayon with Save Harlem Now.

As real estate prices soar in Harlem, churches find they have a heavy cross to bear, but members say they are going to keep the faith.

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