Architectural specialist Brolin (The Failure of Modern Architecture, etc.) has a meaty tale to tell, and no matter that he is late off the mark hitting his stride, not clarifying soon enough the complex, ongoing controversy surrounding a Manhattan real estate scheme that has pitted preservationists against church, church against state, parishioners against clergy. At issue is the ``development'' of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, a landmark neo-Byzantine structure that provides a grace note to commercial midtown Park Avenue. Although Vanderbilts no longer live in the neighborhood, the church draws affluent, regular worshippers from around the boroughs; and although St. Bart's actively ministers to the indigentall programs are either self- or city-financed, according to Brolinan endowment of $11 million makes this no slum parish. The book is effective advocacy journalism, showing us the personalities of those involved in this squalid affair: St. Bart rector Rev. Thomas Dix Bowers, spearhead of the development plan, who is quoted as calling the landmarks commission which rejected the church's three appeals to incorporate onto St. Bart's a 49-story office-rental tower ``bimbos and dummies''; members of the former vestry and its new composition following resignations over the scheme; parishioners and other concerned citizens on the Committee to Oppose; lawyers, accountants. The case is now in the federal courts, and should St. Bart's be allowed to ``slip the shackles of landmarking,'' other churches across the country, direly predicts the author, will also be lured by the ``relatively easy money'' in real estate speculation. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Over the past 20 years, there have been many major historic preservation battles in American citiesthe Vieux Carree in New Orleans, Grand Central Station in New York City, the old Federal Post Office in Washington, D.C. This book chronicles in depth the battle surrounding the decision, made in the early 1980s by the Rector of St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue in New York City, to develop the church's valuable property for maximal income purposes. Still pending before a New York court, the case will likely result in a major decision regarding historic preservation. A fascinating but convoluted story pitting parishioners against preservationists. Peter Kaufman, Suffolk Community Coll., Selden, N.Y.