A tipster writes in that the Parish House of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, at 30 East 31st St., "is going to be put on the market in the next year. The owner wants to deliver the building empty, because apparently if torn down (gasp!) the lot can be developed some 30 stories up--perfect for a fancy high-rise or hotel. It still has a gorgeous old elevator that needs to be hand operated, and the detail in the building is exquisite. Built in 1905, it should be landmarked."
The Parish House has had a long history of providing space to arts organizations. The Viola Farber Dance Company moved here in 1977, after a previous eviction, and in 1978 the Parish House was also home to the Bel Canto Opera Company.
Currently, the building houses The Dokoudovsky New York Conservatory of Dance, where classes take place in a gorgeous studio with 28-foot ceilings, and the New York Theatre Ballet, about which the Times wrote, "This place really does know children and how to introduce them to the joy of dance."
The news of the sale also came out recently in The Real Deal. They wrote,
"When the market turned around this year, the church decided it was time to sell, 'due to the inability to rehabilitate the building [because of cost], the exorbitant upkeep cost and the current market condition,' wrote Faith Grill, chair of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church Trustees, in a letter to parishioners...
The development, with 46,500 buildable square feet, is zoned for ground-up construction of a residential or hotel property including ground-floor retail."
The building is beautiful. The American Institute of Architects Guide to New York City describes it as an "Offbeat gem in brick and limestone. Middle Eastern motifs decorate the spandrels of its Romanesque Revival body. Atop it all a copper cornice forms an overhanging eave supported by exotic brackets."
Even the sign above the door is special. Thomas Rinaldi at New York Neon says it's a rare panel reflector, of which only three exist in Manhattan, and which date back to the 1920s and 30s. Rinaldi writes, "This very handsome sign is one of my favorites of any variety in New York, with great blackletter and script lettering, and stainless steel and porcelain enameled sheet metal."
Ladies in the Parish House, 1907, from MCNY
How is this building not landmarked?
According to the LPC, "The Landmarks Law requires that, to be designated, a potential landmark must be at least 30 years old and must possess 'a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the city, state, or nation.'"
I'd say the Parish House qualifies. If you agree, please submit the form to propose it for landmarking. Even if the buyer turns it into a shopping mall, landmarking means it won't be demolished.