West Park Presbyterian Church, at 165 West 86th Street, was designated as an individual landmark on January 12, 2010. The church was designed by architect Henry Kilburn in 1899, including the redesign of an 1885 chapel on the site by prominent architect Leopold Eidlitz. It is widely considered one of the finest examples of the Romanesque Revival style in New York City.
HDC has long been involved in advocacy to save West Park, whose owners are seeking to strip Landmark protection from the building under the Economic Hardship Provision of the Landmarks Law so that they may demolish the church in order to sell the site to a developer who plans to build luxury condos.
The de-designation of a landmark on the grounds of Economic Hardship is exceedingly rare, due to the high bar that applicants must reach to prove Hardship. For-profit owners must prove that designation renders their property incapable of making a “reasonable return” of 6% on investment. Nonprofits such as West Park Presbyterian Church, which already enjoy tax-exempt status, must prove that they meet four separate criteria:
- The owner has entered into a sale or long-term lease agreement contingent on the landmark being demolished.
- The property could not, if it were not tax-exempt, earn a 6% return.
- The property “has ceased to be adequate, suitable or appropriate” for carrying out its charitable purpose.
- The new owner or tenant seeks to demolish the building immediately, and plans to construct a new building with “reasonable promptness.”
HDC supports the adaptive reuse of this landmarked church building, and opposes the owner’s application to demolish the structure and sell the site to the highest bidder. We do not believe the church is legally entitled to claim Hardship when the structure is usable for its charitable purpose.
While it is clear that significant funding is needed to maintain and restore the building, demolition for a new building is not the answer. If the hardship is granted for this complex, it will set a dangerous precedent for religious sites and other nonprofit landmarks across the city, especially those that have not maintained their buildings adequately.
You can find all of HDC’s testimony regarding the West Park hardship case below!
West Park Hardship Application Withdrawn January 2024!