Seen & Heard: Is Faith Exchange Too Loud and Too Ugly?

••• A reader has filed a complaint: “Attached is a photo of the horrendous awnings adorning the windows of the evangelical Faith Exchange on Leonard and Broadway. The awnings went up this week and are completely out of character with the rest of the surrounding area down Leonard Street. If it’s on Broadway, so be it. But Leonard Street is not Broadway. I’m hoping that you can post the pic to get a discussion going about the appropriateness of awnings. I have a feeling my sentiments are shared by many in the community. In addition to staining the neighborhood with these ridiculous awnings, the Sunday service, featuring a full 6-7 piece band, was so loud our windows were shaking across the street. I suspect this will become an issue at future CB meetings.” The opening paragraph of this 2006 New York Times profile about the founders is a humdinger. On second thought, I’ll just include it here!

Dan and Ann Stratton are a Wall Street power couple, even if Wall Street doesn’t know it. Dan is a tall, blond, muscular Minnesota boy turned Yale football star who, by the time he was 30, had parlayed his college connections into a small fortune as a commodities trader. Today, at 47, he is the founder and pastor of Faith Exchange Fellowship, a fundamentalist Christian congregation in Manhattan’s financial district. He is also a ‘five-fold minister’ of Yahweh, a self-described evangelist, apostle and prophet, and spiritual warrior king. [No way! So is my dog! —Ed.] Ann is a North Jersey Catholic schoolgirl turned born-again miracle worker, a lithe beauty with deeply sympathetic eyes and a sexy wardrobe—Carmela Soprano endowed with Protestant superpowers—whose prayers once supposedly raised a German au pair from the dead on the street in front of the Blue Moon Mexican Cafe in Englewood, N.J. [Is it just me, or does that sentence read like a Mad Lib? —Ed.] “Together they are on a mission to banish Satan from the financial temples of Wall Street and transform New York City into ‘ChristTown.’

••• A bit of not-quite-news from Asphalt Green Battery Park City: “The Battery Park City Authority has been working extremely hard at resolving the last of the permitting issues relating to the mechanical equipment in the building. In the next few weeks you will notice the pool being filled and the flooring and finishing being installed. BPCA is committed to completing construction as expeditiously as possible and then the focus will turn to opening the center. In our next update, we expect to outline our inaugural program plans.”

••• Proof that I listen to readers (er, at least once): Ayesha Ahmad commented on the Best Deli Sandwich in Tribeca post that the haloumi sandwich at Benvenuto was really good, so I went today to check it out. She specifically mentioned the pickles, and let me tell you, pickles are among the things that us mostly vegetarians don’t get to have often, because they tend to be served with meat. The sandwich was indeed delicious, although next time I’m going to have them skip the cream cheese—gilding the lily, that—and I’ll put mustard on it. Mustard is another thing you tend to only see with meat (and pretzels, I suppose).



  1. Ugly, that’s an understatment! Wondering why one wasn’t enough? I saw them putting up one the other day and thought it looked horrible. When I noticed later there were at least five I almost died! Good thing they can apparently raise people from the dead!

  2. Good grief! The dead would be wise to stay unrisen so as not to suffer the pain of viewing such a gaudy display. The pastors should use their Protestant Superpowers to summon some taste. They better not raise James Bogardus from the dead or he’ll slap them upside the head for besmirching his neighborhood.

    P.S. What’s up with the flaming Mufasa? Did they repurpose the Lion King’s national tour ads?

  3. “I have a feeling my sentiments are shared by many in the community.” I’ve lived on that block since the mid-70’s, neighbor, but I don’t share your sentiments. The awnings are hella-ugly, yes. And completely leaving aside that I’m a strong anti-religionist, the people behind this endeavor look pretty unsavory too. That location has never, in all the time I’ve been here, seen a worthy enterprise.

    Nevertheless, there are quite a few reasons I can’t get exercised about those horrid, ugly awnings. I’ll spare you a tirade and just go with this: our block is jurisdictionally divided. It’s unique in that way for this neighborhood. Most of the block, to the west of that location, is a designated historical zone. For legal and commercial reasons the city allowed the eastern section of the block to be developed in ways the rest of the block cannot be. I hate to break it to you, but the reason the building you live in, which – absolutely no offense meant to you – I consider an architectural blot exists, is that it falls under the same legal designation as the church of hysterical awnings.

    This is Manhattan, and one fact of life here is that residences in certain areas coexist with businesses, sometimes glorious and sometimes base. In this case it’s the latter, and I just don’t care. Your building is, to me, like those awnings, but 20 stories high. Again, please don’t take it personally. I don’t care about that either. Living in Manhattan suits me, but it may not be for everyone.

  4. @David, I’m with you. Living in the city means being exposed to the loud, ugly and different. That’s what makes it beautiful.

  5. It does seem the reader’s sentiment regarding the hideousness of the awnings is shared.

    @David – I fear the reader may take personally your suggestion that his/her complaint is a sign he/she may not be suited for city life. I’ve been on this street for over a decade and have learned the hard way that fights like these aren’t worth starting. However, like the reader, it doesn’t mean I need to like it or that I can’t share my distaste with my neighbors. Even those neighbors who live in ugly glass houses.

  6. We had the Faith Exchange Fellowship and their Sunday services on our block a couple of years ago. They also installed garish awnings without permission or consideration which did not comply with neighborhood landmark rules. More upsetting were their numerous fire, noise and safety violations. As icing to the cake they took our building’s street address as their own and we were issued all their subsequent violations. While I do not really support their religious activities that is not what makes them a bad neighbor. They are not servicing the community since their congregation usually drove in to the services. They had absolutely no consideration for the neighborhood in terms of noise, safety and fire rules, parking or the esthetics of the neighborhood.

  7. @David – as a resident of the “Leonard Street blot”, I sympathize with your distaste for our building’s impact on the architectural character of the neighborhood. I do not, however, so much appreciate your provincial attitude towards its residents because they may or may not have been born on the street. I would imagine that upon viewing the proposal for our building much a stink was made about its impact on the surrounding neighborhood. That seems to be what’s happening here on a much smaller scale.

    Be that all as it may, I have lived on the street for 5 years, and a resident of NYC for 25 (has it been that long?) and I wholeheartedly agree with the reader’s take. This is the first time since moving here that I’ve had any trouble with a new business or construction or anything. Leaving aside the awnings, if we must, the noise and Sunday afternoon fallout from the service is becoming problematic. It is LOUD. And the revelry does not end at the final “amen.” The street becomes an after-hours party of similar volume. I’m certainly glad someone brought it up. It has the potential to be a problem.

  8. @David, I agree with you 100%. Those who choose to live in the city accept its diversity and all that comes with it.

    Surprised that so many commenters who claim to have lived on the block for many years don’t remember the horrible night club/s that previously occupied that space. While the band at the faith exchange may be loud on Sunday morning it’s far quieter than the rowdy crowds that used to line up on Leonard waiting to get into that tiny space. I’ll evangelical music any day over the stabbings, shooting, vandalism and unsafe environment my wife and I used to come home to many evenings.

    Those residents at 88 Leonard who find the awnings so hard to look at can choose to not renew the lease on their RENTAL and ask their parents to co-sign elsewhere. I wish they were as concerned with cleaning up after their dogs. I think there are far more serious issues to worry about than awnings on a church being an eyesore.

  9. @Brett I’m not sure your post is worthy of a response, nevertheless, I feel compelled…

    Before moving to 88 I lived in the neighborhood when the clubs and other institutes were causing trouble. I remember very well how bad it was. At that time I did not have such a forum to express my grievances, though I did air them to folks I hoped would listen. It seems to me that’s all that’s happening here. It’s not a question of accepting diversity (we live right off Broadway for cripe’s sake) as much as it is a concern about a new neighbor causing problems for the reader and impacting the quality of life, however mildly. By your logic, all complaints are invalid and we should sit idly by and learn to live with whatever nuisance. There is, I’m sure, a line (though I agree it is not here). Your historical context does not invalidate the reader’s concern.

    Putting that aside, I’m stunned not so much at your reaction towards what was really a mild complaint from a neighbor but more so with the attitude and scorn for the person you suppose raised the issue. This idea that because you had the good fortune / foresight / luck / inheritance to buy / own a residence in the neighborhood your opinion is somehow more valid or true is strange and sad if not offensive. Who’s to say people living in this building, like yours truly, haven’t lived in the neighborhood or on this very street for 25-30 years or do not intend to? And even if they are only temporary residents, why in the world would your property ownership constitute a signal of superiority of opinion? It does not.

    Why don’t you show some respect for your neighbors and disagree politely rather than lazily assail them with tired insults (“parental co-signing?” really inspired work, Brett). The arrogance and sense of entitlement wafting from your post does little to advance your greater point (which may be a valid one if one can discern it through the thick of the smug).

    Lastly, Brett, there are 334 units at 88 Leonard with roughly an average of 2 residents per unit (maybe 1.8, but let’s round up). By my conservative estimate, the Leonard Street RENTERS outnumber your landowners by about 20:1. And many of us intend to live there for a looooong time. So while you may own and we may rent, our opinion is representative of a much larger constituency. In fact, I’m not sure your opinion matters much at all.

  10. I feel compelled to clarify a few things, since I may have started a stink:

    First, I’m the friendly sort who seeks to treat others with respect and kindness, so I did not intend to put anyone down, and apologize if that’s the way it seemed. Just stating the facts.

    Second, I didn’t think my view was “provincial”, more “live and let live”.

    Third, my first call from a “concerned citizen” came around 1981. I’d lived in and loved this neighborhood, with its darkness and grit and inconvenience, and its Mudd Club and TR3, and up-in-3-hour art shows, and now someone was calling because there was talk of opening a “rock club” in that very space and she wanted me to join the fight. She told me that there would be young people from “other neighborhoods” there at all hours and that it was sure to attract “you know…an element”. I informed her that she was the only element coming into the neighborhood that I felt any concern about and said “good day”. I still feel my concern then was justified.

    Fourth, no one should live under conditions that are miserable and incessant because of the bad behavior of others. But you can call the police with a noise complaint or file a complaint with the city. They DO respond. There’s really no need to mobilize a neighborhood effort.

    Fifth, and very minor, I’m not fond of the “historic” architecture of Tribeca. I don’t live here for that. I’d be perfectly happy if it were all razed and glass and steel buildings replaced it. I like parallels and perpendiculars. There’s some good old-timey architecture in the nabe, but most of the buildings on Leonard are 19th century junk/commodity architecture, built cheaply for transitory use. The cast iron facades that are so fetishized by preservation groups were an attempt to make cheap sweat shop and warehouse buildings look “conventional” without having to hire costly stone masons. It was the aluminum siding of its day. I’m not holding the architecture of my building over anyone else’s.

    Finally, I don’t mean to get all Deepak Chopra here, but there are bigger and hoarier issues in life than garish awnings. Fight the noise as necessary, but ugly awnings don’t really register on my seismometer, sorry.

  11. I don’t think anyone’s suggesting the former tenants weren’t significantly more dangerous or a larger problem. But that excess in bad behaviour shouldn’t be the bar that need be crossed to justify a complaint.

    Also, I don’t see anyone singling this group out on religious grounds. I’ve seen “hideous taste” and “noise.” I imagine the complaint would be the same if an atheist minstrel group featuring deafening kazoos was shaking the windows across the street.

  12. Alan: I semi-agree with you on the former.

    Re the latter, you’re right, no one in these posts is singling them out for that reason and I regret implying such.

  13. Before all you start complaning about the church. You should know that this church is hear to stay. The previous tenants were horrible and they make more noise than we did so get over it. We are burden removers and people of God. Before you start judging the church and the pastors you should come and see what are we all about. Stop complaining and get over yourself.