Bring up the Bodies
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 dead may not literally walk among us, but they can certainly cause headaches for developers. In 2006, work on Trump Soho was temporarily halted when human remains were discovered at the construction site, where a Baptist Church once stood. Last year, plans for a development in Queens were nixed after the property—home to a colonial-era cemetery—was landmarked. And back in 1991, the federal government was forced to significantly alter plans for its $276 million federal office tower in Lower Manhattan after uncovering the 17th and 18th-century remains of hundreds of African Americans.
Now, several preservation and community groups are pleading with developer Douglast Steiner to his abandon plans to demolish the Mary Help of Christians Church complex at 181 Avenue A (between East 11th and East 12th streets), because the buildings were built over a former Catholic Cemetery.