November 18, 2022
Chair Sarah Carroll
New York Landmarks Preservation Commission
David N. Dinkins Municipal Building
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007
Re: Middle Collegiate Church, 112 Second Avenue
Application for facade demolition (LPC-23-02975)
East Village/Lower East Side Historic District
Dear Chair Carroll:
The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – LESPI – is very concerned about the fate of the facade of the Middle Collegiate Church building, one of the most important historic structures within the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District.
We are certainly sympathetic with the congregation and the very difficult challenges it has faced, and continues to face. However, the demolition of the church, which has served as both an architectural and spiritual beacon for over a century, would have a huge impact on the community as well as the special character of this very important historic district.
Having attended a (Zoom) meeting and presentation with the church’s minister and professional team, I am aware of the many obstacles the congregation faces in trying to rebuild. But with all due respect to the professional team, we believe that it is imperative that an independent architect/engineer specializing in historic preservation, with extensive experience in similar projects, be brought in to assess the building and prepare a feasibility report outlining all available options. The report should include the option of restoring the facade masonry, as well as strategies for carrying out the new construction work with what we understand to be limited/difficult access to the site behind the facade.
Based on our (cursory) observations of the current facade conditions, we feel that although a certain amount of its Gothic Revival ornamentation and its ashlar has been damaged or destroyed by the fire, a significant amount remains in what appears to be good condition. It seems feasible that a good part of the Indiana limestone masonry (a very durable stone) could be retained and serve as a model for restoring missing or damaged units, potentially allowing for the facade to be saved. Therefore we believe that it is critical that a full and independent analysis be performed. The architect’s/engineer’s report should be made available to the public, as the community has a great stake in this matter. Only the most thorough review and analysis should be performed before any determination is made on the fate of this beautiful facade, a true neighborhood landmark in its own right.