NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - Harlem has changed in the past decade. New shops and trendy eateries have opened. Luxury apartment buildings have risen. Pastor James David Manning of the Atlah Worldwide Ministries wants it all to stop.
"They're changing our culture, tearing down our buildings, telling us what we can do, how we can worship, what we can say, and what we can't say," Pastor Manning said. "It ain't going to happen!"
The pastor is under fire for putting up a large TV screen displaying his sermons and a sign with controversial statements outside his West 123rd Street church. The messages are anti-white and anti-gay. His overall message is that the gay community is driving out the black community.
"I'm gay and I'm black, so I feel like that's kind of a contradiction," said a Harlem resident we met near the church.
Many longtime Harlem residents, like the pastor, also want to stop gentrification. But they told Fox 5 this is not the way to do it.
"I stand totally against blaming any group like that and I think most of us do," said another Harlem resident we met near the church.
Aside from the offensive messages, the church is a landmarked property and changes like this cannot be made without a permit, which Manning doesn't have. The Landmarks Preservation Commission said the pastor already owes the city more than $20,000 in fines for previous unauthorized alterations to this same building.
"Landmarks Preservation is just a tool that's being used by the white racists in this community to try to shut the last man standing," Pastor Manning said.
The pastor wants to make even more changes to the building. Specifically, he has a restoration plan in mind for the outside of the church. This time, he will ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission. If the commission denies him, Manning said he plans to take it to court.