In a lengthy meeting Tuesday night on Zoom, Community Board 7 rejected a proposal that would have allowed West Park Presbyterian Church, on 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, to be torn down and replaced with a high-rise condominium.
The community board’s vote is advisory only, but it carries significant weight as a conduit for public sentiment. Around 160 community members attended last night’s meeting, and dozens testified, along with board members, most in favor of preserving the church.
In contrast to the many calls to save the church, several community board members spoke strongly in favor of allowing it to be torn down and replaced with the proposed condo development. They argued that it was highly unlikely the church — or anyone else — could raise the funds needed for repairs.
The church has already been surrounded for more than 20 years by a sidewalk shed put in place to prevent possible injury to passersby in case pieces of the crumbling facade were to fall on the sidewalk below.
City Council Member Gale Brewer, who also spoke, expressed confidence that the money will be raised.
The final vote was 24 in favor, 13 opposed, 7 abstentions.
The next step is for the congregation to take its case to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on June 14, for a final, decisive ruling on their application.
The congregation is seeking to have the landmark designation removed from the church on the grounds that it can no longer sustain the building or pay for the estimated $50 million dollars worth of repairs the church needs.
Removing the landmark designation would allow the congregation to sell the church to Alchemy Properties, with plans to raze and replace the 19th-century structure with a 19-story condominium, including a new 10,000-square-foot space for the church.
At the same meeting, the community board voted to accept the amended bylaws submitted by its Bylaws Task Force, 30-8, with 7 abstentions. However, the opposition was strong, particularly regarding new rules concerning the interaction of board members with the media and the conflicts of interest of some board members.
We will keep you posted about both stories.
You can view the full board meeting below.