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November 17, 2014

Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor, North
New York, NY 10007
Re: 361 Central Park West, First Church of Christ Scientist, New York
Dear Commissioner Srinivasan:
The proposed changes to First Church of Christ Scientist, New York at 361 Central Park West
undermine its special character and diminish its architectural integrity. The alteration chips away at
this building’s special qualities as it sets bad precedent for all designated New York City landmarks.
This building follows the English church building traditions of James Gibbs and Nicholas
Hawksmoor and evokes the American church designs of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Within
this established paradigm the building represents unique innovations in church design that its
architects, Carrère & Hastings, developed in response to the increasing density of its specific
Manhattan situation. The separate masses of its tower and sanctuary, large windows, and planar walls
are all important elements in its design, they provide key connections to the history of American
ecclesiastical architecture as they reveal and express its unusual interior configuration.
Thomas Hastings was the son of one of New York’s most celebrated Presbyterian divines and the
grandson of an authority on church music who composed the famous hymn, Rock of Ages. He was
steeped in church history. His partner John Merven Carrère was active in his Staten Island church
and together they designed church buildings for congregations as distant as Florida and Rhode
Island. This particular building is notable for the incorporation of offices and meeting rooms above
the sanctuary – a response to the size constraints of its Manhattan site. This ingenious arrangement
is reflected in the pattern of upper story windows and their evidently subsidiary relationship to the
windows that light the sanctuary. This is especially true of the relationship between the large round
windows as they relate to the small rectangular opening that flank them. The fact that these small
windows are confined to the side elevations allows the entrance façade on the east to achieve a scale
and monumentality that lends purity and power to the composition. Proposed changes to the street
elevation fenestration would disrupt the architectural significance of the building and its visible
connection to the development of Manhattan’s architecture.

The proposal for an increased number and enlarged size of window openings on the Central Park
West and 96th Street facades erodes the expression of the ingenious internal configuration that
makes this building an important innovation. The proposed additional story and increased height is
an awkward change to the massing of this building and one that alters its profile and weakens its
connection to both ecclesiastical building traditions and the clarity of its Beaux Arts style
composition. These changes are unnecessary.
The radical alteration in the use of this building is as impractical as it is ill advised and I lament the
possible destruction of this remarkable and important interior. But neither the NYC Landmarks
Preservation Commission nor I can prevent it. What the Commission can do is preserve the exterior
of this New York City Designated Landmark. Doing so will not prevent the project from going
forward, but it might require a design with fewer window, fewer rooms, or fewer apartments. I urge
you to preserve the integrity of the street façade fenestration and massing of this significant building.
The NYC LPC has a mandate to preserve the designated landmarks of our great city, this mandate
does not require the commission to permit changes merely to maximize the profit of those who
speculate in the real estate market. Allowing such destructive and unnecessary changes diminishes
our architectural and cultural heritage and sets a precedent that undermines the protections the law
extends to all of New York’s Landmarks.
Sincerely,

Charles D. Warren, AIA
Co-Author, Carrère & Hasting Architects