St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on Bay street is 165 years old and is the second oldest Roman Catholic Church on Staten Island. Its cornerstone was laid down in 1857. Today, its Northern Italian Romanesque tower is still visible for miles.
"It eclipses Rosebank. It’s significant,” said Phyllis Zito of Friends of Mt. Manresa.
The Friends of Mount Manresa want to ensure the historic church remains standing for generations to come. It started a petition to designate the church a historical landmark. The petition has since gathered more than 800 signatures.
Advocates said they learned their lesson after their failed fight to save Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center. Their focus is now on saving other historical buildings like St. Mary's.
"We’re trying to be proactive and prevent the sale of this property because by the time we go involved with Manresa it was already sold," Zito said. "We’re very mindful of what could happen and very suddenly."
The church's founder and pastor of its first 33 years is buried on the grounds. Advocates hope his final resting place will be considered.
Community Board 1 and Council Woman Debi Rose support a review of the property.
"[Debi Rose’s] hope is that landmarks preservation committee will do a full review of this structure this property and preserve it for generations," said spokesman Vincent Gragnani.
St. Mary’s was shuttered by the New York Archdiocese in 2015. Parishioners say they're upset church leaders aren't doing more to keep churches open.
"I think about my aunt who got married here many years ago and she’s gone now and to see this going down for profit of church- it’s very upsetting,” said Caroline Salerno-Labita.
A spokesman for the church said there are no plans to sell the property. Still, advocates say the best way to protect the church is to make it a historic landmark.