September 23, 2009

Robert Tierney, Chair
Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007

Re: St. Vincent de Paul Church

Dear Bob:

An application has been filed with the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the designation of the St. Vincent de Paul Church, located at 123 West 23rd Street, in my district. I strongly support the request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission evaluate and consider the designation of this building.

St. Vincent de Paul is worthy of designation for historic and architectural reasons. Founded by the French Fathers of Mercy in 1841, it is now the home of the New York Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s only Francophone congregation. It was also the City’s first racially integrated church and home to the first Black mission in New York. Today, its tradition of tolerance and compassion continue with a diversity of congregants and programs designed to meet the spiritual and physical needs of French-speaking immigrants of every religion.

Architecturally, the St. Vincent de Paul building has much in its favor. The original 1869 façade, designed by the mid-century architect Henry Engelbert is, like the existing one, classical, but with lavish twin towers, a center pediment and a brownstone façade. It is still accessible behind the new façade.

The current Neo-classical limestone façade, by Anthony Depace, was attached to the original 23rd Street building in 1939 to cover and protect the original crumbling brownstone. This façade is more quiet and flat, with shallow, fluted pilasters reaching up to the cornice below a well-balanced triangular pedimented top. Inside, the barrel-vaulted space is defined by towering Corinthian columns, murals and opalescent stained-glass windows.

It is my understanding that the Archdiocese does not support landmarking, as it did not support listing the church in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Archdiocese is interested in selling the property to a developer who would likely demolish it. However, it is important to landmark this building because of its unique history and architecture.

I urge the Commission to calendar this building for a hearing and to designate it before this important piece of New York City history and architecture is lost forever.

Best regards.

Very truly yours,
Richard N. Gottfried
Assembly Member

Manhattan Community Board 4
The New York Landmarks Conservancy
Save St. Vincent de Paul