cathedral construction2

Mark Elliott sent us the photo above on Saturday of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine peeking out from behind two apartment buildings that are under construction on 113th street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive.

The buildings, which are set to rise 15 stories, dramatically alter the view of the cathedral from the North. A spokesman for the cathedral noted that the construction will eventually open a new pedestrian access to the North Transept (check out the rendering and map below).

A community group attempted to stop the development, and architecture critics for New York magazine and The New York Times urged the cathedral to reconsider.

“The 428 apartments, designed by Handel Architects, will make a giant landmark fade into the Amsterdam Avenue streetscape — just another flamboyant façade on a busy block,” wrote New York’s Justin Davidson.

But the process moved ahead soon afterward.

Here’s a shot Mark took that shows how close the buildings are to the cathedral.

cathedral contruct3

construction cathedral


More maps of the area and information here.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 28 comments | permalink
    1. Lisa says:

      With the incredible wealth of quite a number of New Yorkers, it pretty unbelievable that no one was willing to contribute to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine so that it would not sell off to real estate.
      Also incredible that the apartment building design lacks any architectural context to the Cathedral. The message is clear – luxury real estate is NYC’s religion and supreme power.

    2. Paul RL says:

      While I am generally in favor of more development on the UWS, I know a tragedy when I see one. And this is a tragedy on so many levels.

    3. Rich says:

      This is awful on so many levels…

    4. Daniel Berry, NYC says:

      Yes horrible. But somehow SJD has to pay its bills just like anybody else. They’ve conducted appeal after appeal, fundraiser after fundraiser, but they really have no revenue stream to speak of. These buildings are (of course) awful. New York long ago lost interest in praiseworthy architecture. These are even worse than Donald Trump’s black-box monuments to his penis.

    5. UWSer says:

      As a member of the Cathedral community I’d love to know how much money all of the naysayers and critics have donated to the Cathedral to support its fundraising efforts and to keep situations like this from arising. <>

      A lack of funds is what led to the decision to sell the land. It’s a shame the views have been obscured but more was a stake than the views a few lucky few were able to have. The Cathedral as a religious institution, community resource and NY treasure was (and is) in jeopardy and the leaders and Diocese did what they had to do.

      • Upper West Side Mom says:

        Yes, I agree with UWSider. Our daughter grew up with a glorious, inspiring view of the Cathedral from her bedroom window, now forever obscured. I do not blame the Cathedral, which has given so much to the needy community and has struggled for years to maintain a hugely expensive property. Many years ago cathedrals had wealthy patrons who supported their upkeep, but those uber wealthy patrons would rather spend their money on $75M apartments and mansions in the Hamptons. Please don’t blame the Cathedral and its community for this tremendous loss of beauty and civility.

      • NativeManhattanite says:

        Those who are irate that their eye candy view of a pretty building is going away, are often not the ones supporting the actual mission of the cathedral. Sigh.

        • Upper West Side Mom says:

          Just finished my taxes, and donated almost $400 for various Cathedral causes. We’re a family of 5 living on less than a 6 figure salary, so really, the best we can do. How much have you donated “NativeManhattanite”? Again, my point is that these institutions need wealthy patrons, and that’s not most of us – that’s the 1%. I support the Cathedral’s decisions; what choice does it have without big money stepping up?

      • Larry says:

        Are you telling me that the Cathedral had NO SAY over what would be done with their own land?

        Vacant land in Manhattan is RARE. The Cathedral couldn’t insist on height restrictions? They couldn’t insist on architectural conformity? They just had to let the land be taken over by anyone who wanted to build any ugly monstrosity?

        Dean Kowalski ONLY cares about money. He has been a DISASTER.

    6. webot says:

      Truly disgusting decision by all.

      Church and developer have blood on their hands.

      • Nathan says:

        Meh. I normally agree with you but this is the unfinished north side of the church. It was just a chain-link fence and and bits of unused stone strewn about before this. It doesn’t block the terminating vista looking at the church from 112th. And, apparently, they needed the money to keep the building from falling into disrepair.

      • NativeManhattanite says:

        How much money have you donated to the Cathedral and its upkeep, to prevent this from being necessary?

    7. Sean says:

      Location, location, location!

    8. Fidel says:

      Given that churches are no longer as popular as they once were and there is a surplus of them around, the city should take over those of architectural significance and turn them into something useful, schools or museums for example, while properly restoring and maintaining them. From ISIS in the middle east to christian clerics on the UWS, we see what happens when we leave the fate of historically important buildings to the religious..

      • Nathan says:

        LOL, nice troll. Oh, you were serious?

        • drg says:

          Maybe they should do what they are trying at the church at the corner of 96th and CPW… partially convert the space into condos. Its so big, I am sure they could squeeze them in somewhere, leaving room for religious community functions.
          They would have to make a “non-poor” door though….

      • Uwsgirl says:

        Middle East (capitalize)
        Christian (capitalize)

        Have I missed some news that ISIS has captured Mecca and other Islamic buildings and made them into not only centers of female oppression but also brutal killing fields? Please, expound.

        • Fidel says:

          Both ISIS and christian clerics have destroyed historically significant buildings in order to serve their religious mission. A great many ancient ruins in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and beyond were destroyed and used to build churches. The logic of allowing these horrible buildings built is that they need to money to further the mission of St. John’s as a “religious institution’.

          I agree with you on the oppressive nature of Islam vis-a-vis women but remember that the Catholics are no slouches in that regard. No divorce, birth control, abortion, sex before marriage, and so on.

          • NativeManhattanite says:

            You _do_ know St. John the Divine is not Roman Catholic? Do you have a _clue_ about the Episcopal Church’s take on “divorce, birth control, abortion, sex before marriage..”?

    9. mlm says:

      This Cathedral has done a lot of financial shenanigans. Remember when they were raising money to buy stones? If they were a regular non-profit, there would be more oversight. I agree that Churches need to raise money, and that there is a dwindling supply of supporters. On the other hand, this organization is not officially a landmark, and it has worked to keep it un-landmarked by declaring it is a building “under construction.” Look at their accounting.

    10. Lynn says:

      Even if this is the only way the Cathedral can support itself and its worthy projects, why such ugly designs? This looks just as bad as the previous hulk that destroyed the rose garden. The church itself is glorious; can’t they at least find architects who can harmonize?

    11. morningside heights resident says:

      I am so tired of hearing people complain about these buildings and how they are obstructing views of the cathedral. Did you contribute money to the cathedral to support any of their very worthy programs? Did you volunteer to help clean the grounds? What everyone seems to forget is that before these and the other tower on the southeast corner were built, those areas were completely inaccessible to people. I will take these buildings over a crumbling stone wall and rusted over construction sheds any day. Across the street from these two buildings is a huge hospital that blocks the view from the north already. The main view from the west is undisturbed. Stop complaining or put your money where your mouth is.

      • webot says:

        Did you contribute money to the cathedral to support any of their very worthy programs? Did you volunteer to help clean the grounds? ”

        How would that have helped? the Archidiocese would have still made the deal. FYI, that is how the deal with all the church properties – sold as development sites to the highest bidder. It would be nice if they took less on the contingency that the buildings be preserved and used as something else (like the Actors Studio and Playwrites on 46th Street). Next to go is Our Lady of Vilnius at the Holland Tunnel.

        Ask yourself would this happen in London , Paris , Barcelona? of course not.

        • NativeManhattanite says:

          “The archdiocese?” This is St. John the Divine, the Episcopal cathedral, not St. Patrick’s, the Roman Catholic (hence archdiocesan) cathedral.

    12. Daniel says:

      Another beautiful NYC landmark violated by greed.

    13. jack says:

      This is a sacrilege! The ashes of AIDS sufferers were scattered on that site. SHAME SHAME SHAME ON THE CATHEDRAL ADMINISTRATION!

    14. nj says:

      People from ms54 tried so hard to prevent this whole thing from happening but not enough can be done when it becomes public information unless a community is organized.