West-Park Presbyterian Church welcomes you to the “Form Letter” page on the Presbytery of New

York City’s website. Our thanks to the Presbytery - and to you - for helping us fight the forced landmarking of our church building! When writing to your City Council person, we encourage you to be yourself, but we hope you will try to limit your letter to one page. Please reference the Presbytery’s Statement condemning the Landmark Preservation Commission’s recommendation. Be sure to include a copy of the Presbytery’s Statement with your own letter. The Presbytery has tasked us to help make it easier for you to reach out to your Council person. Below, please find several items to help guide your communication: A “Model Letter.” We prefer this term over the more common “Form Letter” because we want you to come through in your letter and you are not “common.” Several “Talking Points” for those of you who prefer to craft a letter of your own, writing from a fact sheet The Presbytery’s Statement condemning the forced landmarking of West-Park Church’s building overwhelmingly passed by the Presbytery on January 26th. To find the names and addresses of the NY City Council members, click on the following link to navigate to the City Council’s website http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml you will find that their site is sorted by borough and by the council person’s name. Be sure to locate the address for your Council person’s District Office. Mail delivered to their District Office gets into the hands of their staff much faster than mail delivered to the Council office in the City Hall-area (that mail first goes to a central sorting area before reaching the Council person.) An important point to keep in mind: the good old-fashioned personal letter delivered via the US Postal Service is still the tried-and-true method to make a big impact with a politician. Please avoid sending an e-mail message since they are still viewed as ethereal and instantly disposable. If you have the time, calling your Council person will also make a big impact. If you do call, we hope you will follow-up with a letter to underscore your conversation. West-Park Presbyterian Church encourages you to share our urgent situation with your Session and congregation. Ask them to reach out to their City Council person. Share this information with your friends in the other faith communities in your neighborhood. How wonderful it will be to have hundreds of Presbyterians, joined by hundreds of people from other faith communities, expressing their solidarity in opposing the forced landmarking of all religious buildings and institutions – and the West-Park Presbyterian Church building in particular – against the will and desire of its congregation! If you need any further assistance, or have questions, please feel free to contact elder Jim Nedelka, Presbytery Commissioner for West-Park Church, jimnedelka@aol.com, Elder Hope DeRogatis, our Clerk of Session, hderogatis@hotmail.com or our pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear RLBrashear@aol.com Again, we thank-you so much for your assistance! Feel free to invite your congregants to participate in this effort. The next church we save might be your own! Now, here’s the “model letter,” the “Talking Points” and the Presbytery’s Statement of January 26th, 2010:

Model Letter Honorable [Council Person’s Name] [Local District Office] [Boro] NY [zip code] Dear [Name], [Date]

Grace and peace to you! My congregation and I need your help on behalf of our colleagues in faith at West-Park Presbyterian Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. On January 12th, 2010, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to recommend that the New York City Council approve Landmark Status for the West-Park Presbyterian Church Building on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street, in Council member Gale Brewer’s district. The LPC’s recommendation forces landmark status upon West-Park’s Church building against the will and desire of their congregation. The LPC’s recommendation solely benefits a handful of neighborhood preservation groups who are not members of WestPark’s congregation. Brewer is mining the LPC’s action for her own personal political gain, calling it “a victory for the Westside.” Having already co-opted West-Park Church’s name to better-enable their fundraising efforts to fight against the congregation’s mission, the preservationists are now more emboldened in their 25-year campaign against the congregation. They used the most recent federal holiday celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to gather signatures against West-Park Church. But their most callous tactic is the continued public castigation and characterization of West-Park’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, as a liar and thief. The LPC’s recommendation is so offensive to me and to my fellow Presbyterians that our denominational body, the Presbytery of the City of New York, publicly condemned this action during its meeting of January 26, 2010. For your reference, I’m enclosing a copy of the Presbytery’s statement with this letter. Presbyterian polity holds that each congregation stewards their Church property in trust for the entire presbytery. By extension, a vote to force landmark status on the West-Park Church building is also vote against me and my congregation – your constituents. Should you and the Council approve the LPC’s recommendation to force landmark status on the West-Park Church building, you will place an undue financial burden on them, destroying the church’s base of operations for continuing their more than 170-year legacy of mission. My congregation and I urge you to vote against approving the forced landmarking of the West-Park Church Building. Traditionally, LPC recommendations receive rubber-stamp approval in the City Council when the council person in whose district the building lies backs the approval of landmark status. This is not a traditional case, which is why I write urging you to vote against tradition in this matter. No place of worship should be landmarked against the will of its congregation. If you and your fellow City Council members approve the LPC’s action, every church, synagogue, mosque, temple and religious institution across the city will not be safe from the actions of marauding preservationists. Please join hands with me and my congregation as we stand together with the West-Park Presbyterian congregation in our circle of hope and faith. Please vote against approving forced landmark status for the West-Park Church Building. Thank You,

/enclosure

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Suggested Talking Points re: the Forced Landmarking of West-Park Presbyterian Church WEST-PARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH suggests the following TALKING-POINTS to aid and better-enable a conversation and other communication around this topic: WHAT HAS HAPPENED: the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York has voted to designate the church building stewarded for God, the Presbytery of New York City and the community by West-Park Presbyterian Church. EXPLAIN that this is a forced landmark designation, taken against the will and desire of West-Park Presbyterian Church, the Administrative Commission for West-Park Presbyterian Church and The Presbytery of New York City.
EXPLAIN that West-Park Presbyterian Church - a community of faith tracing its heritage back to 1829 - has been the target of a blatant land-grab scheme engineered over the course of the past 25 years by a handful of overzealous but well-financed neighborhood preservationist groups, whose individual members are NOT NOW, nor have ever been, associated in any spiritual way with West-Park Presbyterian Church. EXPLAIN that the preservationists have used lies and assorted other underhanded methods – including the coopting of the West-Park Presbyterian Church name to raise funds against the congregation and using the most recent federal holiday celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to gather signatures against West-Park Presbyterian Church. The preservationists relentlessly brand the church’s pastor, The Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, as a liar. SYMPATHIZE with your Council person’s instinctive response that the Council always approves the granting of landmark status to a building if the Council person in whose district the building lies backs the plan. REFRESH your Council person’s memory about how Council member Gale Brewer has been a key leader in the fight against West-Park Presbyterian Church, actively aligning herself with the preservationists against the wishes of her own constituents who attend West-Park Presbyterian Church. By her actions, Brewer has alienated many friendships, some reaching back 30 years. UNDERSCORE that Brewer has not only alienated the entire West-Park Presbyterian Church membership against her but – by extension - the entire Presbytery of New York City as well, an organization with at least four other congregations within her district. EMPHASIZE that, while Presbyterians do not oppose landmarking, per se, because every city needs historical markers and remembrances of its heritage, no church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other religious institution should be landmarked, against the will and desire of its congregation UNDERSCORE how a vote to approve the forced landmark status of the West-Park Church building will empower other preservation groups to impose their minority will against other religious groups and organizations, stealing their properties for secular gain in blatant disregard for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment which not only grants all Americans the inherent freedom of religion but also prohibits any legislative body from passing laws or ordinances barring the free exercise of religion. THANK your Council person for their time. FOLLOW-UP your conversation with a written message re-emphasizing your request that your Council person vote to deny the granting of landmark status to the West-Park Presbyterian Church building.

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The Presbytery of New York City Statement on the Landmarking of West-Park Presbyterian Church
WHEREAS the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York has voted to designate the church building stewarded for God, the Presbytery of New York City and the community by West-Park Presbyterian Church, and WHEREAS this landmark designation has been taken against the will and desire of West-Park Presbyterian Church, the Administrative Commission for West-Park Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of New York City, and WHEREAS the designation of the church building as a New York City Landmark (i) imposes a substantial burden on the ability of members of West-Park to exercise their religion, (ii) irreparably impairs the free exercise rights of West-Park and its congregants under the First Amendment and the West-Park congregation’s ability to return to worship and work in its historic home, and (iii) causes catastrophic economic loss and damage to West-Park and the New York Presbytery. WHEREAS this action by the LPC discriminates against West-Park and treats the church on less than equal terms than other persons, religious entities, or non-religious entities under like or similar circumstances, and WHEREAS the LPC has failed to address whatever concerns it may have with alternative course of action that would have a lesser effect on the First Amendment rights – both free speech and free exercise of religion – of West-Park as well as its rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and under state law, THEREFORE, we, the Presbytery of New York City, CONDEMN this action by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York that forces landmark status upon the West-Park Presbyterian Church building against the will of the congregation. WHEREAS the forced, involuntary landmarks designation of the West-Park Presbyterian Church building will destroy the possibility of the West-Park Presbyterian Church congregation continuing its more than 170 years of community-based mission and outreach, and WHEREAS the action to force landmark status upon the West-Park Presbyterian Church building against the will of the congregation contravenes two Federal statues: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFA) 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., and WHEREAS the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s actions to force landmark status upon the West-Park Presbyterian Church building against the will of the congregation now moves to the New York City Council for final approval, THEREFORE, we, the Presbytery of New York City, request the Acting Executive Presbyter to communicate this action to each New York City Councilperson within ten (10) days of the approval of this motion and urge them to disapprove the forced landmark designation of the West-Park Presbyterian Church building.

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