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Owners of West-Park Presbyterian Church want to strip building of landmark status, sell it



NEW YORK — A fight over a landmarked Upper West Side church will ramp up this weekend with a rally outside that will include celebrities — such as actor Mark Ruffalo — activists and neighbors.

For 133 years, the West-Park Presbyterian Church was the most noticeable thing at West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. It was given landmark status 13 years ago by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Now, the owners of the church want to reverse that, claiming a financial hardship.

“They want to de-landmark it so they can tear it down and build another 20-story luxury high-rise here,” Ruffalo said.

Ruffalo, who lives nearby, will join a rally Saturday afternoon with fellow celebrities, preservation advocates, attorneys and everyday Upper West Siders.

“I just know that this building is going to be the next domino to fall unless there’s some sort of intervention,” preservation lawyer Michael Hiller said.


“People that just look and see that there’s a church on the corner, there’s a safety there,” said Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen.

A spokesman for the West Park congregation tell us they reluctantly want to sell because upkeep is too costly. Proper repairs and renovations could cost the congregation an estimated $50 million, according to its own survey.

That made this deal attractive:  a proposed sale to Alchemy Properties Inc. for $33 million.

But for this to happen, landmark status must end. The LPC hears public testimony June 13.

“We see it as the only practical way forward for this congregation to survive,” said Roger Leaf, chairman of West-Park Presbyterian’s administrative commission.

The congregation says the tens of millions of dollars it would get from the developer would be put to great use, advancing its church mission to help communities across New York City.

Organizers of Saturday’s rally want Tuesday’s hearing postponed so more solutions can be brought to the table.


“I want to preserve the history of the city. We see it gobbled up every single day,” Ruffalo said.

“The church can be transformed into a functioning interfaith space that can also promote the arts, can promote the community,” filmmaker and playwright Kenneth Lonergan said.

Those who say they are ready to rally want more time to find a private government partnership to save this landmark.

Source: CBS

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