Middle Collegiate Church Facade Demolition Application at Landmarks Preservation Commission

Horizontal color photo of Renaissance Revival-style church with two towers, one larger than the other, and other buildings on Second Avenue

Village Preservation testified at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing last week regarding the proposal to demolish the fire-damaged facade of Middle Collegiate Church, an 1892 structure at 112 Second Avenue in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District struck by a devastating fire in 2020read our testimony here. At the hearing, an independent engineer commissioned by the LPC presented his findings about the structural stability of the church facade, which contradicted many of the assertions made by the engineer testifying on behalf of the church and calling for demolition of the facade — read his report here.

There was a great deal of public testimony at the hearing, including from former Bloomberg LPC Chair Robert Tierney, who claimed the church’s facade no longer bears any significance and therefore should be demolished, to preservationists who noted that historic churches throughout our city have often suffered devastating fires, and have chosen to rebuild using the remaining historic fabric of the building (two examples — St. Mark’s in the Bowery Church, in whose fire-damaged and reconstructed rectory Village Preservation has been located since 1999, and St. Luke’s in the Field, which suffered a devastating fire in 1982; one of Village Preservation’s first projects was to help the church rebuild using the remaining structure). We believe that Middle Collegiate Church is exactly the kind of institution we want to see remain and flourish on this site and in our neighborhoods — that’s why we gave them an award earlier this year at our Annual Meeting, to call attention to both their good work and their need to rebuild at this site.

We understand the application to demolish the facade is likely to come back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a public meeting (with no public testimony, just Commissioner debate and possibly vote) next Tuesday. We are closely watching this application, which has potentially enormous consequences for historic preservation citywide. We do not believe sufficient evidence has been provided that the facade cannot be maintained and integrated into a rebuilt church. And we believe that if the church wants to make the case that it’s not feasible or practical for them to do so within their means and in light of their mission, they must go through the hardship process to demonstrate that, rather than simply saying the facade can’t safely remain up, if the evidence does not support that at this time. 

November 30, 2022