Landmarks Hardship Application for West Park Presbyterian Church Withdrawn

West Park Presbyterian Church

We are pleased to share that late Friday an application about to be decided by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to allow a hardship demolition of the landmarked West Park Presbyterian Church at 165 West 86th Street (Amsterdam Avenue) was withdrawn. Village Preservation had joined countless preservation, community, and civic organizations in questioning and opposing the application. With the application withdrawal, the landmarked church is safe, for now.

The hardship provision is an important and legally necessary element of the landmarks law that ensures the requirements of landmark designation are not financially infeasible for the owner. In the rare case where they are, it offers an escape valve, and is especially accommodating in its provisions for religious institutions and other nonprofit entities.

But it is not meant to be an automatic release from landmark designation. The applicant must prove they are unable to continue to maintain or use the structure, and feasible alternative options that don’t involve destroying the landmark or otherwise violating landmarks requirements do not exist. Hardships have been granted in a small number of cases throughout the 59-year history of the landmarks law. But we and others felt that important bar had not been met in this case, and granting the hardship approval for demolition would have not only destroyed a historic landmark, but lowered the bar for others anywhere in New York City to seek such approvals as well.

We congratulate all who worked so hard on this effort over the last several years. We hope a permanent solution can be found to restore and maintain this landmarked Romanesque Revival structure, built in 1883-85, in perpetuity. 

January 8, 2024