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First Baptist Church Expansion Proposed at 42-15 Union Street, Flushing

First Baptist Church Expansion Proposed at 42-15 Union Street, Flushing

The historic First Baptist Church of Flushing at 142-10 Sanford Avenue plans to add a the three-story expansion at 42-15 Union Street. Sun & Associate Architects conjured a series of interlocking glass surfaces that contrast with the 1890 eclectic Romanesque church.

Looking southeast from the intersection of Sanford Avenue and Union Street. The proposed expansion would stand between the original church (center left) and Eastern Mirage (center right).

Flushing, originally known as the village of Vlissengen, was founded by the Dutch in 1645 with a charter that allowed freedom of creed. The Flushing Remonstrance, published in reaction to a 1657 ban on Quakers, reaffirmed this commitment and became a model for the U.S. Constitution’s religious liberty guarantees.

Today the neighborhood is among the most diverse in the nation. The 2010 census shows that more than 90 percent of its 72,000-person population consists of ethnic minorities, with over half of the population claiming Asian descent. The church offers services in English, Spanish and Chinese. Prominent “welcome” signs written in English, Chinese, Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic face Sanford Avenue.

Looking east along Sanford Avenue, with Bowne Playground on the left.

The compound expanded gradually over the years. The original church, articulated with dark red masonry, sparse Romanesque detailing, and crowned with a roughly 60-foot-tall steeple, is one of the neighborhood’s oldest buildings. A century-old, three-story, wood-framed rectory sat to the south at 42-19 Union Street, clad in dark wood shingles and capped with a steep gable roof.

42-19 Union Street, with 42-21 Union Street next door. Circa 2006. Credit: Forgotten NY

A boxy, three-story annex east of the original church on Sanford Avenue was added in the early 20th century.

In 1984 the church acquired the 5,093-square-foot lot next door at 42-19 Union Street, boosting the site total to 27,055 square feet. The 1910 residence at the site once resembled the rectory, but was defaced with additions and renovations. Both structures were demolished during the summer and fall of 2014 to make way for the new building.

Site location. Credit: City of New York.

The first permits for the new building, filed in September 2010, called for 16,848 square feet of new community space. A 2015 permit boosts the figure to 18,891.

Looking southeast, with Eastern Mirage in the background.

Manhattan-based Sun & Associate Architects tend to incorporate sweeping glass surfaces and rigorous mullion grids within its projects, many of which are located in China.

The clear surfaces and sheer glass walls of the church will interlock at right angles to create a light, airy ambiance. A 70-foot-high curtain wall, anchored upon a black steel grid, fronts a narrow atrium. A geometric pattern of stained glass forms a massive cross that spans the atrium wall, forming a dramatic backdrop for the historic church.