A holy war has broken out in Brownsville over the fate of a historic Catholic church that was closed last year.
The Diocese of Brooklyn wants to sell off Our Lady of Loreto, on Sackman and Pacific Sts., and let a nonprofit developer tear it down and build 88 affordable apartments on the site.
But an alliance of community activists, an Italian-American society and another developer are fighting to preserve the church and turn it into a community center - while building 102 affordable apartments on nearby church property.
"That place doesn't exist here - it's desolate. That particular location would symbolize hope for Brownsville."
A diocese spokesman dismissed the alternative proposal, and said the group doesn't seem to have enough funding to complete its estimated $21 million plan.
"We have concluded the matter," said the spokesman, Msgr. Kieran Harrington.
Instead, Harrington said Diocesan officials have decided to sell the 108-year-old church to the Progress of Peoples Development Corp., a branch of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, to tear down.
"We would've converted it into a cultural center for the neighborhood to have for the next hundred years, and they're destroying [it]," said Charles Piazza, a member of Italian Americans for Preservation and Community.
"That's the big difference," said Piazza, 57, who was baptized in Our Lady of Loreto in 1962 and now lives in the Bronx.
Piazza and other preservationists said they have been negotiating with the diocese since last May. But talks suddenly stalled early this month, and diocese officials stopped returning their calls, they said.
Jeff Dunston, director of the North East Brooklyn Housing Development Corp., which is working with the community to save the church, said the alternative proposal would work if the diocese would give it a chance.
"We're a diverse team; we're two cultures that represent where Brownsville has been," said Dunston. "This church has survived the transitions of the community."