Two apartment buildings are set to be constructed on land surrounding the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on 113th street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. The land is already being cleared for development with sheds at the site being demolished, a cathedral spokesman confirmed this week.
The Cathedral agreed to lease out the land for 99 years to the Brodsky Organization, developers who plan to build 428 apartments, 87 of which would be part of the city’s affordable housing lottery. Those apartments would start at $696 per month, while market-rate apartments would start at around $1,700, DNAinfo reported last year. The developers are set to receive tax-exempt bond financing.
St. John the Divine is the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the world, even though its towers and transepts remain unfinished, according to Fodor’s.
The buildings are expected to rise 14 stories, with one wider than the other. They would be connected by a staircase. The developer did not need special zoning permits to build at the site, so the development did not go through a public hearing process. The Brodsky Organization did not respond to a request for comment.
The leadership of the cathedral has said they need the money to fix up existing buildings; without it, they say the cathedral could close. Another 20-story residential development was built on the South side of the cathedral a few years ago.
Some preservationists tried to stop the plan, arguing it was a blight on an historic spot (the Cathedral and its grounds are not landmarked, which I found pretty surprising for such a significant building).
Councilman Mark Levine says that the construction project does not have building permits, so the construction of the building cannot start yet. “The window for action is closing but we are still pursuing several strategies in coordination with the cathedral’s neighbors.”
The buildings would “render the outside of the lovely stained-glass windows/sculpture visible only to new apartments,” notes the Friends of St. John the Divine website.
“You are hiding God’s house,” said one Community Board 9 member.
St. John the Divine’s leaders agree that the rest of the rest of the cathedral grounds should receive landmark status, a cathedral spokesman told us.
The Daily News reported Thursday night that the firm doing the demolition has been tied in the past to the mob and had safety problems on a Columbia project where a worker died.
“Breeze National was booted off Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion project in 2012 after worker Juan Ruiz was killed and two others were injured during the demolition of a W.131st St. warehouse. The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration slapped Breeze National the firm with a $9,800 fine, which the firm settled for $4,900 last September.”
A West Side Rag reader sent in the photo below of the corner of Amsterdam and 113th street. She wrote “What a bummer. Too bad they couldn’t develop just the rear side of that property – away from Amsterdam. It would be a compromise for them and the neighborhood. ”