By Serena Solomon
MANHATTAN — West Park Presbyterian Church, the Upper West Side house of worship at the center of a contentious dispute over its landmark status, is up for sale, church leaders tell DNAinfo.
The 125-year-old church, on W. 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, was given historical protection on Jan. 12 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission against the will of the congregation, who had wanted to add apartments to their property to raise much-needed funds.
The church's leader claims there has been little help for new funding ideas from the preservationists who campaigned for the landmark status, leaving no option but to sell the building unless the City Council intervenes.
"Nobody has taken seriously the expense of restoring this building to functionality," said Rev. Robert Brashear, the senior pastor at the church.
Brashear said it was the Presbytery of New York City's decision, not his, to sell the church, with a for sale sign going up about a month ago.
Rev. J.C Austin, who has been working on the sale for the presbytery, said the building is on the market, but a sale must be approved by the congregation.
"No 'asking price' has been set and the church is considering offers that come in regardless of their source," he told DNAinfo in an e-mail.
The church has been financially paralyzed by the high upkeep costs for the 125-year-old building, Brashear said. The building is now closed due to water damage, leaving the congregation of 100 to meet in another church's basement.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who was at the forefront of the landmarking campaign, said she believes there are still a few ways West Park could raise funds to protect the historic building.
"We have to figure out how we meet all the community's needs and keep the building standing," said Brewer.
She suggested allowing a school or business to operate inside the building when it was not required by the church's mission.
However, Brashear said it would be devastating to see the building operate as a commercial business.
"This is a place of community, of service, a gathering place, sharing, expression," he said, of the church that once had 800 members. "What happens if it becomes a bank?"
The congregation is still holding out hope that the City Council might overrule the landmark status after a public hearing. The Presbytery has mobilized its congregation all over the city in a letter writing campaign.
"It makes it difficult for them (the congregation) to keep a sense of hope when you are not really clear of what the future is going to bring," said Brashear.