West Park Presbyterian Gets Landmarked -- and Locks Bums Out of Its Doorways

After the 121-year-old West Park Presbyterian Church was landmarked this week, the New York Post complained in an editorial -- not only because the designation seems to preclude a real estate deal that would have replaced a church chapel with a condo, which could have financed needed renovations to the closed and scaffolded house of worship, but also because vagrants sleep in the doorways. "Why didn't the commission landmark the scaffolding, and the bums who sleep under it, too?" argued the Post. "After all, they've been there for years."

They will be pleased to see the Times report, then, that the newly-designated landmark last week installed big metal gates in its doorways, "effectively halting its tradition as a refuge for the homeless."

Many people, including city councilmember Gale Brewer and patrons of nearby Barney Greengrass have complained of the homeless situation at West Park, but the pastor had been adamant, citing the usual Christian reasons for taking care of the indigent. (You can still see homeless folk sleeping against St. Peter's at Citicorp and other houses of God.)

After meetings with the community board and others, however, the pastor saw the light and installed the gates last week, though he tells the Times he "plans for the future to work with the homeless in our church in a more comprehensive and meaningful way."

The building was landmarked on Tuesday, which status protects designated buildings from significant alterations, sometimes in defiance of their owners' wishes. "It is unclear whether the addition of the gates earlier this month would have been permitted if the church had already been designated a landmark," says the Times. Nonetheless Brewer hopes the church will erect a fence that will prevent people from sleeping on the remaining exposed steps at West Park. Image via Landmark West.

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