How long will preservationists insist on leaving a wreck on the corner of Amsterdam and 86th? The (tiny) congregation of West-Park Presbyterian Church is pleading for a hardship revocation of the ruin’s landmark status: The remaining 12 parishioners have no hope of raising the $50 million needed to restore it.
But this week Manhattan Community Board 7 voted to oppose the church board’s plan to end its landmark status so the building can be sold to a developer for $33 million and razed for the construction of a 19-story apartment tower and a new 10,000-square-foot community space for worship, arts and community programming.
The Upper West Side elite, who can go on ad nauseam about church and state separation, want the state to rule in this case. Indeed, it’s the same zealots who imposed the landmark status 12 years ago — eight years after the scaffolding first went up around the shuttered, dangerously decrepit, 160-year-old sandstone structure.
Some opposition is purely selfish: The Post’s Steve Cuozzo noted that one of the most vocal critics owns a home on the 12th floor of a luxury pre-war co-op building next door to the church.
It’s been over a decade since now-City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and other preservationists said they’d raise the funds to restore the church. Total so far: just $35,000 of the needed $50 million (and that last figure is likely rising).
West-Park is the kind of cash-strapped nonprofit the landmarks-law exemption was written to assist. It’s the clear duty of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ignore Community Board 7’s advisory vote, and do the right thing at its June 14 hearing.
Absent a reasonable way for distressed owners to exit such dilemmas, landmarking will become a guarantee of urban decay.