Just a little over a year go, a debate over whether to bestow landmark status upon West-Park Presbyterian Church devolved into name-calling and angry graffiti. The outside of the church on 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue was serving as an inadequate shelter for homeless people, and the congregation was holding services elsewhere as it looked to sell the church.
Eventually, the Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed to bestow landmark status on the structure, preserving it but preventing the congregation from selling part of it to pay for repairs to the rest. In general, folks on either side of the landmarking debate weren’t too happy with each other.
But tonight, West-Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and it looks like the historic church is on the rebound. Led by City Council member Gale Brewer and preservationist group Landmark West, the community has come together to raise money for a new boiler for the church. And the staff, congregants and leadership West-Park have led the effort to restore the church’s important progressive place in the neighborhood’s history. In fact, according to Pastor Robert Brashear’s blog, it looks like they’re even housing activists from Occupy Wall Street, who are in turn helping them fix up the church.
The congregation is once again holding services at the church and has even invited in another congregation to use the space. And the space has also been used for arts events and some very innovative theater productions as part of a community effort called The Centre at West-Park.
Certainly there’s a long way to go — church administrator Danielle Smith tells me that fixing the facade alone will cost $14 million and take at least 10 years.
But nonetheless, the progress and the church’s 100 year anniversary are worth celebrating. So come out on Monday night at 8 p.m. The suggested donation is $125, but they’re happy to accept any amount.