Chelsea Church of St. John the Baptist intervenes against Penn Station overhaul
He added that he expects it will be years before wrecking balls start swinging, if ever, based on the remaining permits. But if the sweeping 18-million-square-foot plan goes ahead, the city of St. John’s could help by asking Vornado Realty Trust, the site’s developer, to create a home for the church in one of its new high-rise buildings. in a space-sharing arrangement that has become common across the city in recent years, particularly in Harlem.
“Dress us, walk around us, or put us in a new building and pay for everything,” said Gasparik, who was briefed on the approval by a reporter but didn’t seem surprised.
“I think the news is quite inflammatory to pretend it’s all a done deal,” he added. “I don’t know if this is done to attract developers. But it seems less about the train station and more about the money.”
The Archdiocese of New York, which owns the 29,000 square meter property with several buildings together with a Franciscan Capuchin order, was unimpressed.
“Our position remains unchanged. We are aware of the plans. We are in talks with the state, but those talks are ongoing,” said Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
One possibility, according to Zwilling, would be to merge St. Johannis with another parish. St. John’s is already the result of a merger with another church, Holy Cross, on West 42nd Street.
Another option would be to mark the sandstone church, which was designed by Napoleon LeBrun and has a cloister and garden next door, as a landmark to protect it from demolition.
In fact, the church was found eligible for landmark designation in a government-sponsored impact study on the Penn Station project, which completed last year. However, church officials say they oppose that route because it would limit further expansion.
The property also includes a low-rise 1975 brown brick building on West 31st Street that was once a convent but now appears to be partially controlled by a private investor, Pacific Oak Strategies. The firm, a West Coast-based real estate investment trust, did not respond to a request for comment.
St. John’s, which the church says provides social services to hundreds of Chinese- and Spanish-speaking immigrants weekly, also offers about a half-dozen masses a week, many of which serve commuters.