The West Park Presbyterian community held a protest April 17, just days before a City Council subcommittee was scheduled to hold its first hearing on the church’s landmark designation.
A member of the church’s governing board, Hugo Meneses, was arrested for attempting to paint, “Stop Gale Brewer’s Forced Landmarking,” on the sidewalk shed around the church. Police prevented him from finishing the final word.“It’s something that is [supported] by outsiders of the community of the church and by Council Member Brewer,” Meneses said in a phone interview April 19. “I don’t think it’s fair for a minority church to go through this because the neighborhood’s rich people want it.”
The church’s leader, Rev. Robert Brashear, has long insisted that the regulations accompanying landmark designation will make it difficult to work with a developer on needed renovations. The building cannot host congregants or provide services to those in need because if its deteriorated state.
“This building was created by our forbearers to extend their mission in their neighborhood in their city,” said Brashear in a separate interview. “Our hope is that [the subcommittee members] realize there are more constituents to be respectful of than the preservation community. Nobody loves and respects [the church] more than we do. For people in the neighborhood, it’s an aesthetic amenity.”
However, the designation seems preordained, as the Council often defers to local members’ wishes when it comes to landmarking, and Brewer has been an avid supporter of protecting the West 86th Street church from the beginning. She will cast a vote on the matter if the proposal is voted out of the Land Use Committee to the full Council.
While Brashear said that “no one” has come up with a plan to maintain the church’s architecture and allow the congregation to return and provide services, Brewer insisted that a strategy will be devised.
“That is upsetting to me. I tried to help, when I say I had 100 meetings on this topic I’m not kidding,” Brewer said. “I’m confidant that people understand the importance of landmarks. The landmark community will have to make their case and I’m sure the ministers will make their case.”
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