West Park Presbyterian Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side faces a mortal threat: The wrecking ball

“Landmarking was approved basically because Gail [Brewer] was able to convince the other commissioners that there would be sufficient money raised within the community,” said Brashear, who has since retired. “And because they believed that that kind of money would be raised, they voted to support landmarking, and that level of money never really came from the community over the intervening years.”

In her 2009 testimony before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Brewer said, “I will work to raise the necessary funds to restore the building.”

Today, she acknowledges, “the church is in worse shape than we thought.”

But she said a big part of the challenge has been raising funds for a church, which is precluded from receiving taxpayer support, though that fact was certainly known in 2009.

“There’s no opportunity for me or for any elected official or any government to give money to a church” for repairs, Brewer said.

‘A terrible burden’

The Rev. N. J. L’Heureux Jr., the retired executive director of the Queens Federation of Churches, had also opposed the landmarking.

“People regard landmarking as an honor,” L’Heureux said in a recent interview. “They don’t realize that it is a terrible burden for the owner of the building.”

In 1982, L’Heureux oversaw the publication of a report by The Committee of Religious Leaders of the City of New York that was highly critical of landmarking.

“Synagogues and Churches, in seeking to address mounting needs in every local community, have come to find themselves increasingly confronted by the Landmarks Preservation Commission,” read the report. “At best, this has resulted in significant delay and increased the cost of proposed renovation and development programs.”

And at worst, the report continued, the designation, by preventing redevelopment, “drains off valuable resources which otherwise would be redeployed for more effective ministry.” Such demands “may cause a severe interference with its spiritual and social purposes.”

In the last seven years, the church said it has spent approximately $1 million on repairs to its facade. Since 2000, a protective “sidewalk bridge” or scaffolding has been in place to protect pedestrians from falling chunks of the building, a problem that church officials expect to grow worse. To keep up with costs, church officials have sold off assets, including a manse or residence on West 93rd Street used for a former minister, which brought in $1.35 million.

Source : https://gothamist.com/news/west-park-presbyterian-church-on-manhattans-upper-west-side-faces-a-mortal-threat-the-wrecking-ball

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