Congregation halts plans to tear down historic NYC church after celebrities object

Plans to demolish the historic West Park Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, due to its financial struggles have been halted after objections from local residents and celebrities, including Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo, according to reports.

The 133-year-old church intended to sell the property for development into luxury apartments. However, the landmark status of the building, granted in 2010, required approval from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission for demolition, according to The New York Times, which said the church's request for permission, made in 2022, sparked widespread support for the preservation of the building, including actors Damon and Ruffalo.

The congregation withdrew its application, influenced by a lawsuit against a tenant over a rent dispute, days before the commission was scheduled to vote on the church's application on Tuesday, the Times said.

However, the church plans to resubmit the application in the future. The congregation said in a statement that they are deciding “to resubmit our application to the LPC when the lawsuit is resolved so that we can finally invest in the modern, accessible worship and community space that the Upper West Side deserves and continue to support our mission in our. neighborhood and throughout New York,” as cited from West Side Rag.

Church leaders signed a binding contract in 2022 with the condominium developer because of a $2 million repair bill they couldn't afford. They also filed a difficulty application seeking to de-landmark and demolish the building to make way for the condominium, which would also include a service for the church.

Gale Brewer, a city council member representing the Upper West Side, expressed hope that the delay might lead to the preservation of the building.

Amid New York's housing crisis, some argue that opposition to the church's demolition is preventing the development of much-needed housing.

“As an elder of the church and a founding member of the Center at West Park, I too am frustrated by the difficult position we find ourselves in today,” Marsha Flowers, ruling elder of the West Park Presbyterian Church and founding board member. of the Center at West Park, said in a statement to The Christian Post at the time.

“We helped create the Center in 2017 to celebrate the arts while fundraising for repairs to the building, but the funds never came despite more than a decade of promises and commitments from local leaders,” Floro added. “Our congregation is now focused on creating a new space for worship and the arts, and we hope to use our proceeds to help other churches fulfill their mission and avoid circumstances like ours.”

To support the preservation of the building, actor Matt Damon participated in a play at the church last November.

Wendell Pierce; comedian Amy Schumer, as well as rapper and actor Common also threw their star power behind the effort to save the building.


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