City landmarks UWS church, Queens theater

The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission handed Upper West Siders a late holiday gift when they voted Tuesday to protect West Park Presbyterian, the 1889 Romanesque church that was almost demolished for a condo tower.

The commission also voted to give landmark status to the Ridgewood Theater in Queens, a 1916 theater designed by Thomas Lamb, which until it closed in March 2008 was one of the longest-running theaters in the country. Both buildings were profiled in amNewYork’s Endangered NYC series on preservation.

The West Park designation caps a long battle between preservationists and church officials, who bid out the redevelopment rights for a mixed-use tower in 2007. In the wake of community protest and the collapsing economy, the developer abandoned the project, but the church had remained unprotected.

“It’s obviously a tremendous accomplishment and we applaud the landmarks commission for taking this step,” said Kate Wood, executive director of Landmark West!, an organization that lobbied for the church’s protection.

The empty church suffered considerable interior damage last year when pipes burst during a cold snap, raising new concerns that the building was self-destructing.

The Rev. Robert Brashear, West Park’s pastor, was tentative about the building’s future.

“Restricting it from being redeveloped doesn’t really provide any resources for its restoration and bringing it back to functional and valuable use,” he said. “We’re in a position where reality has to come into play … [we] have to move beyond legal preservation to real rebuilding.”

Tags: Endangered NYC , Queens , Upper West Side , preservation , history , landmarks

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