Cash-Strapped Congregations Can't Save Landmark Churches

Another victim of the economic downturn is historic preservation. In New York, a number of churches slated for preservation can't find the funds to keep the bulldozers away.
March 17, 2009, 12pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"A ruddy sandstone bell tower interrupts the march of gray apartment buildings along Manhattan's West 86th Street. The muscular tower rises above the West Park Presbyterian Church, a beefy beauty erected in 1890, when houses of worship were well-wrought civic ornaments rather than tricked-out TV studios inside beige boxes near a freeway.

In February, it seemed, West Park was a candidate for demolition.

The church, in stark contrast to its well-heeled neighborhood, stands abandoned and neglected, with its delicate rose window obscured by a filthy plastic panel to ward off vandals. A scaffolding over the trash-covered sidewalk prevents intricate foliage carved into stone from falling on passersby.

When workers started hauling out debris, activists feared a prelude to bulldozing, though actually the mess had been made by a burst pipe. The possibility of demolition (or a ruinous accident) at last ended dithering at the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. The commission has scheduled West Park for a hearing that could lead to landmark designation."

"Now the fear is 'demolition by neglect,' as Kate Wood, who heads the advocacy group Landmark West, put it."

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Published on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 in Bloomberg.com
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