THE BATTLE OF ST. BART'S by Blent C. Brolin


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A professional writer on architecture uncovers the details of Manhattan's St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church's controversial attempt to sell part or all of their building for real-estate development despite the opposition of the New York City Landmarks Commission. And what details! Forget the niceties of urban architecture and economics; this book is about ecclesiastical sleaze-flinging, quasi-legal conniving, and out-and-out greed. The Tenth Commandment really takes a beating. Brolin begins with measured objectivity, allowing the participants to speak for themselves, extolling the virtuous biography of pastor Rev. Tom Bowers, and generally setting up the conflict as a fair fight between hardheaded community leaders. The champion of the opposition is J. Sinclair ""Sinc"" Armstrong, a liberal Harvard-educated lawyer whose family had long been members of St. Bart's. Slowly. the veneer of equanimity begins to fade away, and is finally tossed to the wind as church leaders allegedly misinform the parish, fiddle with finances, rig elections, employ scare tactics on church employees, and even use a legal summons to intimidate a little old lady. Not to mention that the architectural proposals they try to hammer through the Landmark's Commission are, to many, abominations. The relatively small scope of the scandal itself--it is, after all, just one church with 800-odd voting members--gives this story an amusing intimacy in contrast to the earnest prose. It's not often that vestry politics can be described in military metaphors. A deft piece of journalism but, more than anything, a juicy page-turner.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow