bible society

The American Bible Society has sold its headquarters at 1865 Broadway (61st street) and announced that it will move to Philadelphia, paving the way for a 300,000+ square-foot development on the site.

It’s not yet clear how tall the building could be, but it will clearly be much taller than the current structure. And it will undoubtedly be filled with ultra-luxury apartments, perhaps even on the order of One57 — the site alone sold for $300 million, or about $1,000-per-square-foot!

By comparison, 15 Central Park West sold for a reported $690 per buildable square foot.

From all indications — though we haven’t studied the permits yet — the development appears to be “as of right,” meaning the development will not have to go through a public hearing process.

The buyer was AvalonBay, a public real estate company with holdings in 11 states and Washington, D.C., which put out a press release.

“The Company intends to develop on the site a residential tower totaling over 300,000 square feet of buildable area including a significant retail component at its base. The Company currently anticipates starting construction in late 2016. The Company may in the future enter into a joint venture or forward sale arrangement with respect to the retail component of the project.”

The bible society, which publishes and translates the bible for distribution around the world, has been in New York for almost 200 years. It will move to Philadelphia. Presumably the statue of a contemplative man sitting on a bench outside will also go away, but we have no word on that yet.

One reader who has been following the sale wrote in with his disappointment:

“The heartbreaking thing for me—for someone who values the role of faith in the public square which, admittedly, had been wanting on ABS’s part for some time—is that when ABS opened its doors in May 1816, it pre-dated even New York’s first savings bank.”

We’ll update this if we hear more about this building.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 48 comments | permalink
    1. Cato says:

      For $300 million I’d move to Philadelphia too.

    2. webot says:

      Avalon Bay builds some pretty bland to hideous rentals.

      They are building that travesty next to (or almost on top of) the Cathedral of Saint John the Devine and their wooden construction went up in flames last week in Edgewater.

      I was hoping for something more along the lines of 15 CPW (architecturally speaking) – not another diatribe on the wealthy please.

      Also,would be nice if the Bible Society stayed in New York (with their jobs) maybe in the outer boros.

      • Mark says:

        That’s interesting, you almost sound half way liberal here.

        • webot says:

          mark not that you deserve a response for your quip….but.

          Any other place in the country (world?) I would be considered liberal. I am all for personal liberties of any adult that does not affect others unless they are consenting: abortion, drugs, gay marriage.not my business what others do.

          BUT , NYC liberals take it to this extreme level and really do not have proper understanding that everything costs money. particularly social programs, housing. I do not pander to special interests. I am even for a safety net for when we get lost. but not a lifetime on welfare and living in public housing. not good for anyone , the person or society.

          I have always called out bad landlords who build crap. I do not knee jerk blame them for everything. As I understand how the city taxes, delays , red tapes, and drives up costs, while the same politicians will attack that the rent is too damn high. well they aint helping.

          so, thanks for the quip as I express myself

          • Liberated Woman says:


            Although I, along with many others here, disagree with you often, even strongly, I’m glad to see that where it matters most, you are solidly progressive. (I had suspected as much all along. I mean, is there anyone who reads this blog who DOESN’T, at the very least, support a woman’s right to reproductive freedom and full equality for our LGTBQ brothers and sisters? Is there even anyone on the UWS like thsat?)

            To the all people who attack webot, I must ask: Do you really want to risk alienating someone like that? Someone obviously committed to what are the most important issues of the day? Can we afford to, with Roe vs. Wade and marriage equality possibly hanging in the balance of as little as one vote?

          • Independent says:

            “I am all for personal liberties of any adult that does not affect others unless they are consenting: abortion, drugs, gay marriage.”

            Hmm, “does not affect others“, “consenting“.


            Let’s take the case of abortion. Last I checked, the procedure had some effect upon life in the womb.

            Perhaps you only support a “right” to abortion if and when such nascent life has consented to its own murder?

            I could go on deconstructing the boilerplate that is the statement of yours that I quoted. It is the utterly predictable elaboration– moreso than any other– in nearly every case where people profess their liberal credentials with qualification. (At least in these parts.) While no doubt psychologically, socially and politically useful, the simplistic slogan, along with the rhetoric that backs it, does not hold-up under scrutiny.

            I leave my comment here, for the exigencies of time and topicality beckon.

      • Gretchen says:

        Let’s not forget than AvalonBay is the owner of the Edgewater, NJ apt. complex that just burned to the ground across the river. The complex burned up like a haystack with cheap wood construction. While I know that they have a far stricter bldg. code here in NJ than in NJ, AvalonBay is known to cut corners wherever possible. They build Walmart’s product, which they rent at Saks 5th prices — ugly, vanilla architecture.

        • Mszd says:

          Agreed, Avalon builds ugly, poorly constructed buildings.
          This building will be an eyesore.

        • Scott says:

          I’m not really sure NYC’s building code is that much tougher. I do know it’s been weakened in recent years in an effort to standardize it with the International code. The Edgewater project was fully compliant with that code. But now NJ is revisiting its regs in light of the fire.

          I think the construction we’re used to here — 6 inch wide concrete slabs between each apartment, along with Pyrobar bricks — is a thing of the past and won’t come back.

      • My office looks toward 15 CPW, and both at eye level now and at street level, I’d agree it’s not half bad. I like its stonework, and some of the detail is pleasing. A welcomed change and difference in the surrounding glass pillars.

      • stuart says:

        I did not realize that the actor Andy Devine’s brother John (or was it actress Loretta Devine’s brother John), had his own church.

        In case you’re wondering, it’s St John the Divine for all you heathens who have no clue.

        • webot says:

          that’s your point, a typo – jump all over it.

          Meanwhile that beloved church now has a cheap rental building almost attached to it.

          What happened to the “new tone” of this website?

    3. nick10025 says:

      From October. The massing looks close to the buildable area.

    4. Lucien Desar says:

      They cashed out at the apex of the New York real estate boom, well played American Bible Society.

    5. Sean says:

      Will there be a “poor door”?

    6. Lisa says:

      In an already congested area, it is pretty hard to imagine the level of congestion – subway, bus, sidewalk, vehicle traffic (and I guess bicycle) – and infrastructure overload that will result from yet another high-rise luxury building situated here, plus the massive Riverside Center (West End Ave)under construction plus several other nearby buildings pending development.

      • Jeremy says:

        To increase the amount of housing, you gotta break a few eggs.

        • Cato says:

          They use eggs in concrete now?

        • Joe Rappaport says:

          This development is unlikely to increase the amount of housing in any way that’s meaningful for New Yorkers who need it. As others have noted, apartments in many of these luxury buildings are sold to non-New Yorkers from outside the country; they’re used as a way of sheltering money. (There won’t be a need for a poor door, either; there will be no poor people living there.)

          • Jeremy says:

            That’s an absurd assumption. Has Avalon Bay ever done a condo building? I’m no expert, but they seem to focus entirely on residential rentals.

            The “new building” dog whistle is on par with “Benghazi” to get some people riled up these days. Let’s all breathe for a second, inevitably complain about the design when it comes out, and later reminisce about how ABS used to take in our packages and hold our keys.

      • Neighbor says:

        If it is a building of absentee owners like One57 it won’t put much pressure on services…probably less than ABS does now. Ever notice how few lights are on in that building in the evening?

      • Nathan says:

        Two points:

        1. If it’s anything like the other extremely tall extremely luxurious buildings, it’ll be 70% unoccupied most of the year.

        2. The Upper West Side is ~33% less dense than it was in the ’60s. Manhattan’s population peaked in the 1950s. The infrastructure has already proven capable of sustaining more people.

    7. Nathan says:

      Honestly, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of this. Manhattan is so expensive it’s almost silly to keep employees here that can easily work at a remote office. Or, in this case, move the office entirely.

      Now the part where I piss off the liberal set: This is the same reason NYCHA shouldn’t be maintaining public housing on the most expensive real estate in the country. Think how much they could net if they sold it, and think how much more and better housing they could build elsewhere. It’s a huge opportunity cost!

      • ABS needed to make capital improvements and didn’t have the cash to do so, so they sold. They say they will maintain a Manhattan presence, location TBD.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Nathan said:

        “This is the same reason NYCHA shouldn’t be maintaining public housing on the most expensive real estate in the country. Think how much they could net if they sold it, and think how much more and better housing they could build elsewhere. It’s a huge opportunity cost!”

        well, that’s true if you look at NYCHA as a bottom-line driven organization and not as a mission-driven organization. NYCHA communities are organic entities and like most communities can’t be judged and summarized by the value of the real estate.

        If you’re open minded on this — some people here are not, but many are — you might be interested in the “right to the city” movement.

        • Cato says:

          Interesting website. Among the “rights” they advocate:

          — “Indigenous Justice: The right of First Nation indigenous people to their ancestral lands that have historical or spiritual significance, regardless of state borders and urban or rural settings.”

          So I guess that means we’re all moving. Do we at least get the $24 in beads back? (With interest, I hope.)

          And how about

          — “Reparations: The right of working class communities of color to economic reciprocity and restoration from all local, nation and transnational institutions that have exploited and/or displaced the local economy.”

          Not *all* working class communities, mind you, but only those “of color”. So get your bank accounts in order, those of you who’ve managed to save some money by working for an “institution”: It’s income equalization time!

          And then

          — “Fundamental principle: To the workers belong the means of production.”

          Oh, OK, that’s not actually there. But it wouldn’t be out of place if it were.

          “Right to the City”? Sure. If it’s Moscow you’re talking about.

          • webot says:

            Thank you Cato for actually uncovering the truth on that constant commentator.
            History has shown us not to just dismiss them as a quack but expose their true beliefs and how potentially dangerous they can be.

        • marie says:

          IF (and that’s a huge if) NYCHA is “mission-driven” then it would appear that their mission is “to try to maintain an unsustainable housing system in which it’s best to serve very few on very expensive real estate at very high cost in very crappy apartments.” If they are actually trying to serve the large lower/lower-middle classes they’d sell their land assets in Manhattan and use the proceeds to either endow a direct rent subsidy program or buy cheaper land in Queens and Brooklyn and house more people in nicer/modern apartments. Programs like NYCHA mostly help those administering the program and encourage corruption and multi-generational poverty.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          well, as i noted, not everyone is open minded on this issue. that’s fine. I’m posting my comments for people who are open-minded.

          You don’t have to agree with everything on a web site to support a basic movement for the right to live in places like Manhattan… especially for people who have been living here for decades. It’s clear that the displacement movement is mainly affecting the poor, working class, Blacks, Hispanics… and now even middle class people!

          • Nathan says:

            Disagreeing with your view does not make one closed minded. We may have been open to your view, considered it, and then rejected it as patently ridiculous.

          • Cato says:

            The website you touted shows no interest in “middle class people” (unless, of course, they can be considered members of “working class communities of color”).

            I’m open minded, but I don’t think that thinly-veiled communism is the best answer to greedy landlords. Return Manhattan to the Indians? Come on.

    8. Jeremy says:

      Hey Avi. If the building’s on a 22,500 footprint and will be 300,000 square feet, that kind of implies that it will be about the same height, more or less.

      • West Sider says:

        Thanks. We saw that, but still not sure if the entire site is buildable or if they will spread the mass differently. Avi

    9. One of the real losses here, which hasn’t been written about much, is the common/public space in the atrium. It’s open to the public, and lots of teenagers hang out after school, plus moms + kids. This will be gone when ABS vacates. The developer should be urged (not incentivized) to build in public space, even if municipal services aren’t needed for absentee apartment owners.

      MOBIA on the second floor is also an easy museum to visit. They are moving of course somewhere else in Manhattan.

    10. Burton says:

      Does anyone know if the museum will move as well? They had interesting shows.

    11. lucette says:

      Why can’t the size of buildings be capped? Why can’t builders be required to have a mix of moderate not for profit in every building? Do we want NY to look like Dubai and have no personality?

      • Martha says:

        I agree, Lucette. We do not want NYC to look like Dubai. Your points are excellent. Thanks.

      • Jeremy says:

        Trying to get a grasp on what you’re saying here. Let’s say that without any interference that these developers would build something like the Aire, but shorter. What would you have them do otherwise, and what would be the net community benefit of that alternative?

        Appreciate your thoughts on this – just trying to understand.

    12. mlm says:

      A new New Yorker on the Upper west Side who share Bible reading with others as well. I attend a Church, liberal by many standards, but I’m from a less liberal town originally. Why can’t we have this on the Upper West Side? why do we need another luxury, unaffordable, undistinguished architecturally building amidst the rapacious real estate developments? Is there no place for those of us who value faith and religion?

      • Jeremy says:

        It’s a bit tone-deaf to complain that churches are somehow threatened en-masse by residential construction. Houses of worship are among the most unlikely to be kicked out of our neighborhood. Heck, that church on 86th and Amsterdam that can’t pay any of its bills still can’t be turned into something that benefits the larger community.

        If the departure of ABS means that you can’t find a place for faith on the UWS, you’re doing it wrong. Within 5 *blocks* of my apartment, there are 7 churches and 8 synagogues. Vatican City probably doesn’t even have that kind of density.

      • Gretchen says:

        Hey, there’s still the Mormon church just a few blocks up! Wonder if they’ll be cashing out in a few years too, but what would Brigham Young think? Religion is dying in a real estate rich city — the Catholic Church, protestant, synagogues — all selling out to developers — praise the lord!

    13. denton says:

      The moving trucks have been there these past mornings.