Century-Old Church Gets Landmark Status

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In a hard-fought victory for community preservationists, the city designated West Park Presbyterian Church a landmark Jan. 12.

Rev. Robert Brashear, however, now faces complicating restrictions as he seeks ways to finance restoration of the aging building, at 165 W. 86th St. and Amsterdam Avenue.

Preservations had long urged the city to protect the historic church, with Upper West Side groups, elected officials and Community Board 7 arguing that the church is a beautiful example of religious architecture.

Robery Tierney, chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, called the church, “one of the best examples of a Romanesque Revival style religious structure” in the city.

“Its deep red sandstone cladding, broad round-arch openings and soaring tower endow a prominent intersection of the Upper West Side with an unmistakable sense of place,” Tierney said in a statement.

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Council Member Gale Brewer, who supported protecting the church, said the commission’s decision saved the building.

“We’ve also preserved a spiritual and everyday landmark for our neighborhood, protecting not only architecture, but history, heritage and quality of life,” she said in a statement.

For years, the crumbling exterior was in need of expensive maintenance, estimated at $10 million, which includes interior work as well. Scaffolding had to be erected to stop chunks of stone that were falling down, according to Brashear.

The reverend tried to work with a developer to finance such work. But the landmark designation will put a “chilling effect” on finding a developer, he said.

“Designating it as a landmark doesn’t necessarily mean it’s protected,” Brashear said. “The question is, where does the money come from, the resources come from, to not only preserve, but restore?”

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