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Old 05-15-2013, 01:11 AM
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Question St. Mark's Church Awaits Vote To See If It Can Make Historic Building More Accessible

From NY1:
St. Mark's Church Awaits Vote To See If It Can Make Historic Building More Accessible
By: Jon Weinstein
For Cort Cheek, attending church every week at St. Mark's in the East Village is a challenge. He uses a scooter and has to traverse several unsteady temporary ramps to get inside.

"I fell coming out of the church one day," Cheek said. "I get a lot of anxiety going up and down, but I love coming here, so I face it every day I come through."

The historic church won a grant last year and as part of its restoration wants to make the front entrance more accessible with a permanent ramp.

"There are six steps up to the front and so we are hoping to create a ramp that is minimally visible, minimal impact on the portico, but that lets people on their own come into the building and into the front door," Rev. Winnie Varghese said.

The accessibility project needs to be approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

St Mark's is the oldest continuously operational site of worship in the city. Built in 1799, its also the burial site for Peter Stuyvesant.

Some people worry that any new ramp could detract from the historical nature of the building.

They want any changes made to the side of the building where it would be less visible or not at all.

"I don't want to see anything on the original sacristy changed," church member Lewis Patuto said.

"Something that would allow access but not desecrate what we already have," church member Barbara Weiss said.

The church's leadership says side entryways are not feasible and on top of that, they want everyone to be able to come in through the front door.

"We think it's imperative to make sure people who are disabled get to come in the same entrance everyone else does," church member Chris Davis said.

They say their project will make minimal alterations to the historic structure.

"What we're doing is absolutely as minimum as possible, it's absolutely reversible, and it's not really touching the historic fabric of the church in anyway," church Senior Warden Rob Schoenbohm said.

The church wants to get this project started. They must spend their grant money by the end of 2014, but they're still waiting on a vote from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
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