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Controversial Church-to-Condo Developer Gets Another Chance to Pitch Plan

By Emily Frost | March 8, 2016 5:42pm
 The planned conversion would involve adding windows to the church and altering its appearance.
The planned conversion would involve adding windows to the church and altering its appearance.
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GKV Architects

UPPER WEST SIDE — The city is giving the developer of a controversial church-to-condo conversion another chance to make its case for the project — much to the chagrin of local preservationists. 

At a hearing Tuesday, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) granted 361 Central Park West LLC, the developer that applied to convert the historic church at that address into condos, a chance to present new information in its quest to get the green light for the project, LANDMARK WEST! president Kate Wood said.

The developer can now make another argument for why its project should receive exemption from zoning requirements at a public hearing scheduled for June 2, she added.

Groups opposing the conversion — including LANDMARK WEST! and the Central Park West Neighbors Association, which organized to fight the plan — can also present at the public hearing. 

About a week ago, 361 Central Park West LLC withdrew its application from the BSA after approval appeared highly unlikely.

But opponents' celebration was short-lived. 

On Tuesday, the BSA had the choice of accepting the developer's withdrawal, leaving room for the developer to reapply, or accepting the withdrawal with no path for reapplication, Wood explained.

The BSA chose neither option and instead scheduled a public hearing, thereby giving the project new life and catching opponents off guard, Wood said. 

Despite the fact that the developer's application did not prove the project merited zoning exemptions, "they’re getting a do-over," she noted, adding it's not clear how the developer will proceed in June. 

Neither the developer nor the BSA responded to request for comment Tuesday.

In the fight against the plan, "there's no end in sight," said Wood, who characterized the 113-year-old former Crenshaw Christian Center East as "one of our city’s most important landmarks."

Neighbors have fought the project, which ultimately received approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, since it was first proposed in 2014.

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