CB1 Applauds Proposed Changes to Trinity Church—With Big Exception

Rendering of awning proposed for the south side of the church that would allow clergy and others to walk to the back of the church, outdoors, in all types of weather before making their procession down the nave, to the front of the church. Community Board 1 rejected the addition. The rendering also shows continuous, raised bluestone walkway that would provide handicap access around the south, west and east sides of the church.  Rendering: Murphy Burnham & Buttrick

Jan. 06, 2018

Trinity Church is proposing some major improvements to its building, one of Lower Manhattan’s most historic and iconic sites. If approved this month by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, stained glass windows and doors will be restored, walkways and terraces around the building will be raised and added ramps will provide handicap access. Stairs and gates will get long overdue repairs, and new lighting will dramatically showcase the neo-gothic detailing of its 1844 facade.

Last month, Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee got a presentation on the plans, which were met with glowing praise, with words like “fabulous” and “great work.”

But then there was the matter of an awning.

Located on the south terrace and 91 feet long, it would provide a way for clergy to proceed to the back of the church, outside the building and in all kinds weather, before making their procession down the nave to the front. Now they walk to the back inside the sanctuary, in view of the congregation.

The architect of the restoration, Jeff Murphy of Murphy Burnham & Buttrick, said his firm had first suggested that the addition be made of bronze. But Landmarks Commission staff ruled out that material. “They really wanted this thing to disappear, and do everything possible to make it disappear,’” Murphy told the committee.

“Don’t add it!” responded the committee’s chair, Roger Byrom.”The best way to make it disappear is don’t add it.”

Murphy said the currently proposed awning is made of steel and transparent glass. “You look through this and you basically see original historic fabric and we’re trying to minimize the impact of the awning.”

“[The clergy] can walk out in the rain, with an umbrella, like the rest of us,” Byrom told him.

In response to a request for comment from Trinity Wall Street officials, Lynn Goswick, a spokeswoman, said in an email that there is no one available to discuss the awning. What is being considered is a transparent covering designed to provide a measure of protection from inclement weather, she wrote.

The Landmarks Preservtion Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal on Jan. 16.