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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)

Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously yesterday to landmark the West-Park Presbyterian Church on the northeast corner of 86th Street and Amsterdam.

The red-stone building, one of the most prominent on the Upper West Side, was designed in 1890 by Henry F. Kilburn.

The New York Post ran an editorial today stating that the commission's vote was "to cast falling debris, forbidding scaffolding and scruffy vagrants in amber for residents of the Upper West Side to gaze upon into perpetuity," adding that the church will now "stand, in all its decrepit glory, until gravity pulls it down - which, given its present structural instability, might not be all that long."

The church had entered into an agreement with Bill Traylor, president of Richman Housing Services, to erect a 21-story apartment building on part of the site and that building would have contained 50 "affordable" rental apartments and 27 market-rate condominium apartments, as well as 25,000 square feet of community space and new skylit congregation space near the top of the existing sanctuary structure just to the west of the church's clocktower, which would have been preserved under the redevelopment plan.

The affordable apartments would have all been studios and located on floors 5 through 10 with a separate entrance and the condo units on floors 11 through 21, would have their separate entrance with a marquee in the new mid-block tower that would have cantilevered slightly over the rear of the sanctuary structure.

Mr. Traylor said that that the physical condition of the existing church was poor and that his company would pay the church $15 million for the development rights and that $5 million of that will create an endowment fund for the church and that if the renovation and construction of the church space costs more than $10 million his company will pay for it. Mr. Traylor's company is the sixth largest residential property owner in the United States.

In response to a question at a community meeting some months ago by John Michael Ziegler, the head of the board of trustees of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the northeast corner of 86th Street and West End Avenue, where the West-Park Presbyterian Church would have conducted services during the construction project, Mr. Traylor said that construction was expected to take about two years to complete, adding that the plan is not using about 10,000 square feet of the church's development rights. He said his company was not pursuing other development rights that have been offered by adjacent properties and that his company and the church want the project to be in context with the neighborhood.

A single person making less than $24,000 would be eligible for the affordable units, he said, adding that the Goddard Riverside Community Center, which is on 88th Street, has a waiting list of about 4,000 seniors.

Franke Gottsegen Cox is the church's architect and SCLE is the architect for Richman. The buff-colored brick tower will have a limestone base that apparently is modeled a bit after the sinuous curves at the base of 19 West 72nd Street.

The Rev. Robert Brasheer told the meeting that that a plan advanced by the Friends of West-Park did not generate sufficient funds to cover the renovation costs especially when the Trevor Day School opted not to pursue the venture.

One speaker at the meeting, Mosette Broderick, said that West-Park "is the only Richardsonian building left in Manhattan" and that Henry Richardson did not try to "clone" Europe and that the church's planned new space in the project was "rather sad looking" and that the new project should not be "banal" and "look like Houston or Dallas."

The Rev. Brasheer said that the landmark designation "will not preserve out beloved church building; instead, it will hasten its demise."
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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