Houses of worship are among the most sensitive issues facing the landmarks commission. Mandating that a church be preserved can not only impose a heavy financial burden on a congregation, it also raises the specter of state interference with religious freedom. So the commission has been especially loath to take on churches or synagogues that don’t want to be designated.
Preserving the City: Church and State
But many preservationists and at least one commission member argue that the landmarks commission has not been aggressive enough in protecting churches from the overheated real estate market of the last few years. Given that churches tend to be low-rise buildings in choice residential locations, they note, the structures became prime targets for developers intent on building high-rise apartment towers.
Mr. Tierney defended the commission’s record on houses of worship, citing 12 it has designated in his five-year tenure. Five were named individual landmarks and seven won protection as part of historic districts.
He then goes on to rattle off the names of a bunch of religious institutions in Manhattan...