Diocesan News

Greenpoint Church’s Effort to Raise Funding For Elevator Could Use a Lift

The main entrance to St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Parish is so difficult for the elderly and handicapped to navigate that it has stopped many people from attending Mass, said the pastor, Father Sebastian Augustine, CMI. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

GREENPOINT — There are just seven steps in the staircase leading from the sidewalk on Manhattan Avenue to the front doors of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Church in Greenpoint. But for many elderly visitors, even navigating that small number of steps can feel like climbing a mountain.

In fact, climbing the steps to the church has become so difficult for some parishioners with mobility issues, that they have simply stopped coming to Mass, said the pastor, Father Sebastian Augustine, CMI.

In an effort to bring them back, St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus is seeking to install an elevator in the church that would allow access without the need to climb the stairs, and started a campaign five years ago to raise funds for such a project. 

The parish has reached out to the Diocese of Brooklyn to seek its approval. 

But the estimated cost of installing an elevator in the church is between $350,000 and $500,000, and Father Augustine said the fundraising effort has been going slowly. 

To date, the parish has raised approximately $50,000. That was enough to hire, in 2022, an architect to do a feasibility study and draw up preliminary plans.

According to those plans, the elevator would not be constructed in the front of the church but on the side of the building. Churchgoers would go through an alley that separates the church from the rectory to gain access to the elevator. 

St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus has a lower church and an upper church, and the elevator would be designed to make stops at both, Father Augustine explained. 

Weekend Masses are celebrated in the upper church. The lower church is used for weekday Masses and since it is air-conditioned, it is also where summer Masses are held.

The parish has cleared one potential hurdle. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has signaled its approval by ruling that the project would not change the building’s character in a detrimental way. 

Father Sebastian Augustine, pointing to the place where the elevator would be built, said it would allow parishioners to enter the church directly from the elevator. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

That was crucial, because the Gothic Revival church building, constructed in 1873, lies within the Greenpoint Historic District, which was established by the LPC in 1982. 

Under the rules, property owners in New York’s historic districts must win approval from LPC in order to renovate their buildings. And the commission can veto the plans if it rules that the renovation would significantly alter the character of the building.

That’s the reason the parish opted not to construct a wheelchair ramp, which would have been much less expensive than an elevator. “It would have changed the facade of the building too much,” Father Augustine explained.

The lack of an elevator or a ramp does not mean the parish is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, since religious institutions are exempt from the law. 

But in recent years, more than a dozen churches in the diocese have taken on the expense of adding ramps or installing elevators to become handicap accessible.

Carol Kulikowski, a parishioner of St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Parish since 2014, is spearheading the elevator project. She found the architect to get the project off the ground and is helping to fill out the paperwork. 

“We badly need an elevator here. We have a lot of elderly parishioners who have trouble with the stairs. Our church should be a place where everyone can come,” she said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 13% of Americans live with some sort of disability — including mobility issues, poor eyesight, hearing loss, and cognitive decline.

However, parishioners at St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus said an elevator would benefit more than just the elderly and physically disabled.

“There are young families who come to church with baby carriages. The elevator will be good for them, too. They wouldn’t have to climb the stairs with the carriages,” said Betsy Rodriguez, the office manager and director of faith formation.

What Can You Do?

  • This is a link would-be contributors can access to donate money toward the project to build an elevator.


  • Parishioners can hold any variety of fundraisers, such as church-sponsored flea markets, bake sales or other events.