Community Board 7 Supports A Landmarks Hearing for West-Park Presbyterian Church
Late on Wednesday night (November 7), after hours of discussion and impassioned public testimony, Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold a public hearing on West-Park Presbyterian Church, West 86th Street’s imminently threatened Romanesque-style beauty. See below for the resolution approved by CB7’s Parks and Preservation Committee on November 1 and passed by the full board on November 7 (24 in favor; 4 opposed; 2 abstentions).
Thank you, CB7 and everyone who spoke up in support of landmark status, for taking this important first step. Help reinforce this message by going to http://www.petitiononline.com/westpark/petition.html and signing the West-Park online petition. Join the hundreds of people who have already signed, and please forward this link to your friends and neighbors.
Next, send a letter of support to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Robert B. Tierney, Chair of the Landmarks Commission, and key public officials (contact information below). Tell them what you want them to do—and, importantly, ask them to tell you specifically what they will to do get this church building landmarked. Please send LANDMARK WEST! copies of your letters and emails. Sample letters of support, along with additional information about the architecture and history of West-Park, are available on: www.landmarkwest.org/westpark.
Address letters to:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
New York, NY 10007
Honorable Robert B. Tierney
Chair, Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007
And Send Copies to:
Honorable Jerrold Nadler
201 Varick Street, Suite 669
Honorable Gale A. Brewer
New York City Council Member
563 Columbus Avenue
Honorable Christine Quinn
City Council Speaker
224 West 30th Street, Suite 1206, NYC 10001
Honorable Scott Stringer
Manhattan Borough President
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor NYC 10007
Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman
New York State Senator
80 Bennett Avenue, Ground Floor NYC 10033
Honorable Linda B. Rosenthal
New York State Assembly Member
230 West 72nd Street, Suite 2F, NYC 10023
Honorable Jessica S. Lappin
336 East 73rd Street (Suite C) NYC 10021
45 West 67th Street
The Community Board 7 Resolution (www.cb7.org)
Date: November 7, 2007
Committee of Origin: Parks & Preservation
Re: West-Park Presbyterian Church (Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street.)
Full Board Vote: 24 In favor 4 Against 1 Abstention 1 Present
The following facts and concerns were taken into consideration in arriving at our resolution:
1. West-Park Presbyterian Church at Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street unquestionably meets the criteria for designation as a New York City Individual Landmark. For reasons discussed in more detail below, West-Park merits landmark designation not only because of its architectural importance, but also because of its history as a catalyst for the longstanding tradition of liberal and cultural activism on the Upper West Side.
2. West-Park, designed by architect Henry F. Kilburn and built in 1890, is a unique survivor on the Upper West Side of a building in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of ecclesiastical architecture. Further, as noted by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in it Resource Evaluation on West-Park dated November 8, 2001: “The church retains an exceptionally high level of integrity of setting, design, materials, craftsmanship feeling and association on both the exterior and interior.” It is a boldly massed French Romanesque-inspired building with a massive tower anchoring it prominent corner.
3. Additionally, the easternmost section of the building, facing West 86th Street, is an adaptation of an 1884 chapel, which constituted West-Park’s original structure on the site, designed by Leopold Eidlitz, referred to by architectural historian Andrew Scott Dolkart in a statement dated March 2003 submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission as “one of the most important nineteenth-century architects working in New York, who “was also significant for his theoretical writings on architecture, structure and engineering.”
4. From the beginning, West-Park has embodied the spirit of social consciousness of the Upper West Side. Anson Phelps Atterbury, a socially-minded minister who translated Werner Sombart’s writings on socialism into English, became Pastor of what was then called the Park Presbyterian Church, raised the money to move the church from its prior, inadequate site to the current site, and, with the congregation, engaged Eidlitz to design the chapel building.
5. Among other notable activities in the 20th Century, West-Park was the first home of Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare Festival, the birthplace of God’s Love We Deliver and the West Side Food Pantry, the first church in New York City to support gay marriage, and the original home of West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH).
6. West-Park (for whatever reason), was not included in the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District designated in 1990, although the Landmarks Preservation Commission staff (as quoted by Christopher Gray in the “STREETSCAPES” column in the New York Times on January 10, 1988) had described it as a “superb” building in 1979. As a result, West-Park has been in imminent danger of partial or total demolition a number of times. The church is currently the subject of a development proposal that would destroy the Eidlitz portion of the building entirely, and would also modify the stairs and entrances on Amsterdam Avenue.
7. Community Board 7/Manhattan, believes that designation of West-Park as an Individual Landmark is an urgent issue not only in light of the development proposal to which it is immediately subject, but also in light of the development pressure on it generally, and the development pressure on other churches and non-profit institutions in the Upper West Side and other New York City locations.
BE IT RESOLVED that Community Board 7/Manhattan requests that the Landmarks Preservation Commission calendar an immediate hearing on the proposed designation of West-Park Presbyterian Church as an Individual Landmark.
Committee: 8-1-0-0. Board Members: 5-0-0-0.