Manhattan Children’s Museum Being Denied Space in Church

by | Feb 8, 2020

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If you’re interested in Manhattan community news, then you may have heard about the controversy surrounding the construction of the new Children’s Museum of Manhattan space. As real estate experts, we have to keep on top of all the area news. We’ll keep you in the loop of some recent developments regarding the Children’s Museum’s attempts to get approval for their requested construction.

The conflict revolves around the former First Church of Christ, Scientist, located at 361 Central Park West. The church is a landmark in New York City and is part of the Central Park West Historic District and prescribed by federal designations. In 2017, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, which operates at 212 West 83rd Street currently, purchased the church, looking to move into the building, but to accommodate this move they’re asking for permission to renovate the interior from Community Board 7.

At the first meeting of Community Board 7 concerning the church, a vote was taken regarding the Children’s Museum’s plans. These plans initially consisted of construction on seven floors of the emptied building in a 78-page proposal, including a performance area, terrace, and workshop. Ultimately, the decision was made to block the planned construction.

The board cited several reasons for the decision to deny approval. The first issue with the proposal was the requested removal of a stained-glass window in the church that was to be replaced with clear glass. The other issue with the proposal was a requested structural change to the bulkhead of the roof, needed to build the rooftop terrace. Both of these changes were deemed to be inappropriate given the character of the landmark.

However, the Children’s Museum and FXCollaborative, its architectural firm, returned in less than a month to deliver a short presentation including a number of changes to their proposal. This new plan still proposed the removal of all but one stained-glass window, but included changes in the plans for the structure of the bulkhead and the roof designed, they say, to make the space continue the fit the building’s existing profile better. The new roof design is supposed to allow more sunlight to reach neighboring buildings and for more of the original clay tile on the roof to remain.

The forum they presented this at was an open meeting, rather than a board meeting. The room was packed with locals and representatives of a number of community groups. Much of the community was against the Children’s Museum’s new plan, believing that the concerns about the removal of the stained-glass windows and the changes to the structure of the building still weren’t adequately addressed as the new changes may still lessen the historic characteristics of the building.

Another topic of concern amongst the community members was the speed of the process, with many feeling like the Children’s Museum was trying to rush these new plans through the approval process without giving the community and the Board adequate time to consider the plans and recommend changes.

As of now, the matter of the Children’s Museum’s move to the church remains ongoing. New plans will be drawn up for approval. In the meantime, we will keep our eyes on the news and let you know about any other important changes in the community.

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