The Battle of St. Bart's

Brent C. Brolin, Author William Morrow & Company $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-05938-5
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)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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