Upper West Side's West-Park Presbyterian Church to take step Tuesday toward landmark designation
West-Park Presbyterian Church is at West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue
By Lana Bortolot
Special to amNewYork
A distinctive Upper West Side church that could take its first step Tuesday toward landmark designation may still not have a prayer, preservationists say following a false alarm last week about a clandestine demolition.
Preservation group, Landmark West, issued an emergency alert last week raising concerns that the 119-year-old West-Park Presbyterian Church at West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue was being prepared for demolition, despite a stop-work order issued last year.
A spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the panel will vote Tuesday to calendar a public hearing on the church. Once the vote is calendared, a hearing considering landmark designation would be scheduled.
The long-vacant building has been slated for redevelopment. Local residents opposed plans for a condo tower, and have lobbied the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to save it.Lack of permits and a stalled economy halted activity at West-Park until last week, when neighbors reported seeing a work team hauling debris into unmarked panel trucks over 10 days, raising suspicions of an under-the-radar demolition. The church confirmed the clean-up activity, but the pastor said it was related to three burst water pipes.
Rev. Robert Brashear said the breaks, which happened between Jan. 19 and 24, resulted from age and cold weather. The crews, supervised by Westfair Restoration Services, have been removing wet material and on Friday, were still running wet vacuums and pumps.
The main point is to preserve the building and make sure no further damage takes place, said Brashear in a phone interview on Friday. We have no intention of doing anything out of bounds.
But members of the Friends of West-Park see it differently.
Thomas Vitullo-Martin, co-chair of the preservation group, says that while he believes the current activity is not a demolition per se, he calls the current conditions demolition by neglect by 1,000 cracks. [The building] is not being taking care of and it will be destroyed.
West-Park was determined eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2001, and has been under review at the landmarks commission since 2007.
A number of preservation experts have filed letters in support of landmarking.
Our concern is that landmarking without a cash infusion into the congregation isnt going to save the church. But while there is a hiatus in the development plans, I think its good time for the commission to take a look at this. The real fear is the threat that if this project fails, the building can be demolished, said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.