Preservationists, developers clash over fate of West-Park Presbyterian Church

Despite being over 130 years old, the West Park Presbyterian Church is at the center of a modern controversy over its continued existence.

Members of the church, which dates back to 1890, want to sell the building to a condominium developer, as the building needs $50M worth of repairs. The congregation says it cannot afford the costly renovations and instead want to sell the building for $33M. 

But many living in the neighborhood around the church are objecting to the plan, especially after the building was designated a historical landmark in 2010.

Both sides aired their concerns during a virtual public hearing this week.


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"Religious organizations and their buildings need to be adaptive. Our buildings are not to be preserved as mere monuments. The present building continues to endanger the community surrounding it," said Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison.

Those objecting to the sale of the building held a rally over the weekend hosted by celebrities including actors Amy Schumer and Mark Ruffalo. 

New York City Council member Gale Brewer represents the Upper West Side, and insists that there is enough interest to raise money needed to save the building. 

"Hundreds if not thousands of people are in favor of keeping the current building and want to contribute," Brewer said. "We do not want this torn down for expensive condos and not one unit of affordable housing." 

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The Landmarks Commission's public hearing was just an opportunity for everyone to be heard. There was no vote so a final decision on what will happen with the church building in the future is still under review.