LPC Approves CMOM’s New Design

Revisions to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s plans for a historic church

| 22 Jun 2020 | 10:59

UWS residents were initially thrilled with the idea that the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) had a found a new home across from Central Park at a historic church.

But earlier this year, many were dismayed that CMOM planned to make major changes to the interior and exterior of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist, a 120-year-old landmark building at 361 Central Park West. People were concerned about rooftop construction, the removal of signature stained-glass and the yanking out of walnut doors and granite steps.

However, on June 9, the Landmark Preservation Commission approved the plans. Some of the modifications include:

· The proposed rooftop addition will sit within the footprint of the historic copper clad monitor, and while taller than the monitor, will be clad with profiled and perforated copper to recall its historic profile and character in a modern way.

· Removing steps from the three Central Park West entries and the entry at the 96th Street will allow for barrier-free access to the building at all entrances, supporting the programmatic requirements of the museum.

· The new entrances will feature salvaged granite thresholds and the proposed wood-and-glass doors, featuring transoms with decorative grilles, to relate to the proportions of the entrances and harmonize with the details and materials of the building.

· Salvaging the historic walnut wood doors and relocating them to the interior of the entry vestibules will preserve historic fabric and maintain a connection of these significant architectural features to the entries.

Community Concerns

A spokesman for CMOM said the museum praised LPC’s decision and is ready to move forward with the project.

“We are grateful to have received unanimous approval from Landmarks Preservation Commission on our plans to restore and revitalize CMOM’s new home,” the spokesman said. “The commission’s support of the project recognizes the critical need for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s mission and program, as well as the sensitivity and strength of the design approach developed by FXCollaborative working closely with CMOM, which will bring a historic building back to life for the community.”

In December, the Preservation Committee of Community Board 7 passed a resolution rejecting the project and in January, the full board voted against it.

CB7 Chairman Mark Diller told the West Side Spirit the board has not yet had an opportunity to review the changes to the application that CMOM presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 9.

He noted that since the board only speaks through resolutions, he could not comment.

Landmark West, one of the groups opposing the initial plan, said these the revisions are somewhat of a compromise. Executive Director Sean Khorsandi is glad CMOM adapted and heard the concerns of the community.

“It is a fine line to walk because we want to support CMOM and their efforts to stay in the community and bring back this individual landmark to public use, but one must respect a building of this stature,” Khorsandi said. “When the architects presented their recent changes they noted that they removed so much from the roof but ‘did not change the program’ which meant they are still getting everything they need. Many feel this could have been presented in this form earlier on but it took more cajoling to get there.”

No work may occur until the LPC has issued a Certificate of Appropriateness, which requires review and approval of Department of Buildings.