NEW YORK (PIX11) — A Manhattan community is fighting to save a 132-year-old church.
The West-Park Presbyterian Church has stood on the Upper West Side for 132 years. In recent history, it has transitioned from an active church to a performing arts center. Its primary tenant is a non-profit group called The Center at Park West, which supports diverse local artists and performances.
The Presbytery of New York, which still owns the church building, is now looking to sell the property to a developer, with plans to demolish the structure and replace it with a high-rise apartment building.
“Candidly, we’re fighting for our life,” said Susan Sullivan with The Center at West Park. “It’s a David versus Goliath situation.”
Roger Leaf, Chair of the West-Park Presbyterian Church’s Administrative Commission, which oversees the property, said in a statement that it made the decision to sell ‘in the face of the insurmountable expenses to preserve the deteriorating building.’
‘We have exhausted our own resources to address these needs, and the funding that local leaders and community partners committed to raising over the last decade never materialized,” Leaf said in the statement.
In order to sell the property, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission must revoke the church’s landmark status, which is what community leaders are trying to stop.
“When the Landmarks Commission first landmarked it back in 2010, they noted that it was one of the finest examples of Romanesque Revival architecture in the city,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “And I don’t know why you’d want to change it now.”
The Center at West Park now wants to buy the building, which would change its designation from a church to a non-profit organization, thereby opening up funding options. Upper West Side Councilmember Gale Brewer said securing funds to repair the building is not a problem.
“If it’s owned by a non-profit, I can get city, state, and federal funding,” said Brewer.
Puppet artist Justin Perkins, who has been working out of The Center at West Park for about five years, said the performing arts community is irreplaceable.
“When spaces like this go away, they go away forever,” said Perkins. “And the city is just not the same without them.”
If the church’s landmark status is revoked and the building is eventually knocked down, the developer would reportedly set aside 10,000 square feet in the new space for worship, arts programs, and community activities.
Community Board 7 is set to meet on Tuesday to decide if it will recommend revoking the church’s landmark status. That recommendation will then be passed along to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is meeting on June 14 to make a final decision.