By Brendan Krisel
HARLEM, NY — Central Park North's La Hermosa Christian Church has revealed more details about its future plans to stay in Harlem as the neighborhood gentrifies.
The congregation will use the funds that come from the development of a massive apartment tower at the church's current site to build a new church building that will double as a music school, church officials announced this week. In May, La Hermosa applied to rezone its Central Park North and Fifth Avenue corner site to build a 33-story mixed-income housing development.
La Hermosa's plans to redevelop its corner site are necessary because the church "can no longer afford to keep up with the growing capital needs of its aging building without intervention," according to a church press release. The current church building — built as a dance hall more than 100 years ago — is not ADA-accessible and has an aging HVAC system. Many of the church's spaces that once hosted community events are now vacant, church officials said.
Places of worship around New York City are taking similar paths in order to stay afloat.
La Hermosa's new church building will be located next door to the new residential building and will also feature space for the Manhattan School of Music. The partnership will allow area children to take advantage of free community music lessons. Community spaces in the new building will also be used to host events such as weddings, art shows and other community gatherings, church officials said.
"The La Hermosa congregation and the entire Harlem community deserve to feel pride in our community spaces; our children deserve arts and music education regardless of their family income," Pastor Dan Feliciano said in a statement. "We are glad to be leading a project that will deliver these things, and are honored to be able to grow our impact in our next chapter by partnering with an iconic music school like MSM to provide free music and arts education for Harlem kids."
Applications filed with the city earlier this year requested that La Hermosa's site is rezoned from a medium-density district to one of the highest density districts allowable by the city's zoning code. Other applications in the church's proposal would modify height and setback regulations for the planned building, waive parking requirements and designate the site a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area, according to an Environmental Assessment Statement filed with the Department of City Planning.
If the four applications are passed by the city, La Hermosa's development will rise 410-feet-tall with about 194,182 total square feet of residential floor area and 37,647 square feet of community facility floor area, according to the public records. The development would contain 160 apartment units, 48 of which would be "permanently affordable" through the city's Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.
The applications are currently going through the city's Uniform Land Use and Review Procedure, which allows a number of different city bodies to analyze and weigh in on the proposal. Local Community Board 10 voted overwhelmingly to oppose La Hermosa's applications in June with only two of the board's members in favor of the redevelopment. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also recommended the city reject La Hermosa's application.
The first two votes in the ULURP process are advisory, which means the project may still end up being approved. The City Planning Commission and City Council have the final two votes, and will ultimately decide the fate of La Hermosa's application.