UWS church throwing Hail Mary to save congregation

Church looking to sell property to developer, despite landmark status

Kenneth Horn, founder, Alchemy Properties, and West-Park Presbyterian Church at 165 West 86th Street (Alchemy Properties, Google Maps)
Kenneth Horn, founder, Alchemy Properties, and West-Park Presbyterian Church at 165 West 86th Street (Alchemy Properties, Google Maps)

Landmark status is not enough to save the West-Park Presbyterian Church from selling its property to save its historic congregation.

The church is appealing its landmark designation so it can sell the 140-year-old property to Alchemy Properties, the Commercial Observer reported. The developer plans to tear down the church at 165 West 86th Street to make way for an apartment building.

Times are lean for the church, which counts only 12 members in its congregation and no pastor. According to the Observer, the church needs $50 million to repair the church.

This week, the Presbytery of New York City unanimously approved the church’s plan to sell the property to Alchemy for its market-rate apartment building. The developer will build a 10,000-square-foot worship space for the church to use.

A purchase and sales agreement has been agreed to, but the terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. The church will receive $8.8 million on top of the purchase price to outfit the space how it pleases.

The church received landmark designation from the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission against its wishes in 2010, according to the Observer. The designation presents a challenge to making ownership changes on the property, not the least to say tearing it down altogether.

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The property is in rough shape. The city deemed the building’s facade unsafe two decades ago, necessitating a sidewalk shed that remains in place today. The church recently needed to raise $75,000 to fix an exterior wall on the verge of collapsing.

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Only 19 hardship applications have been filed with the LPC since it was formed in 1965. About two-thirds of those applications were granted.

“The LPC has always been sensitive to the cost and effort of maintaining historic buildings, and we work closely with owners to find solutions that are realistic and achievable,” the commission said in a statement.

Some churches in the city have faced dire straits with shrinking congregations and rising property costs. The Upper West Side’s Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew is among the churches pushing to expand the policy on sales of air rights to keep up with mounting financial struggles.

[CO] — Holden Walter-Warner