Incompetence and ignorance can destroy historic buildings

Dear Editor:
Since no one living today has constructed a Gothic or Romanesque church and since today’s architecture is built with the bottom line in mind, using quick and cheap methods and materials which do not usually have a great sense of old world craftsmanship and fine quality workmanship in mind, how could the construction methods of such structures be known by today’s developers? How many owners are willing to pay to hire the best qualified, highly experienced professionals to research and utilize such methods in constructing a building?
One of the problems that has plagued Hoboken for years is that low-paid laborers and shoddy construction methods end up destroying structures when the intent is to reconstruct only parts of the structure. Since many of the old buildings in town are being converted to luxury condos, the reconstruction includes demolition. The developers go to the Zoning Board saying they will only demolish a part of a building but sometimes take down much more than what was agreed to or in the process destabilize the structure so that the whole building has to come down and sometimes adjacent buildings are damaged. There have been many stop-work orders on buildings all around town for this very reason.
On Oct. 20, the Zoning Board granted variances to allow the old Baptist Romanesque Church at 901 Bloomfield to be transformed into six high end luxury condos. 901 Bloomfield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places which provides a very detailed description of its structure, including: “Three walls of the sanctuary curve outward toward the western, southern and eastern property lines.” “Two buttresses support the outward-curving sanctuary wall. The buttresses, approximately four feet deep at the base and three feet at their highest point, two-thirds up the wall, match the facade that they support.” “Two buttresses rise two-thirds of the way up the secondary facade to support the outward-curving sanctuary wall.” “The buttresses match the pair of buttresses on the primary facade;” “On the secondary facade, the buttresses serve a second function. They not only support the sanctuary wall but also anchor the secondary entrance to the narthex” (a section of the bell tower which accommodates the massive entry to the sanctuary).
Now when the conical slate roof is removed to add two more stories above the cylindrical sanctuary, will the work be done by workers who have experience using buttressing to support or reinforce walls to stabilize such church construction?
Or will demolition without an understanding of this type of buttressed architecture destabilize the church, causing the sanctuary walls to topple and resulting in the final death of this beautiful 1890 structure because the city will require it to be torn down due to a possible collapse of the church? Will someone be severely injured or die in the process as they deconstruct this historic structure to make floors for the condos?
I fear for the fate of this church.

Mary Ondrejka

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