News | Morningside Heights

Saint John the Divine selects developer for controversial project

  • Jing Qu for Spectator
    DIVINE DEVELOPMENT | Saint John the Divine hired the Manhattan-based Brodsky Organization to lead its proposed development of to build residential apartments on the north side of the cathedral grounds.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine has selected a developer in its controversial project to build residential apartments on the north side of the cathedral grounds. 

The project, which was first announced in January 2012, consists of constructing two residential apartment buildings on the cathedral’s north side in order to stabilize the cathedral’s finances. Yet historic preservation advocates have long argued that the buildings will block views of the cathedral and undermine its historic appeal. 

The Manhattan-based Brodsky Organization will lead the proposed development. 

The cathedral has had problems keeping developers on the project. The original developer, Equity Residential, quit in October 2012, and earlier this year cathedral officials were reaching out to another developer, Worldwide Holdings. 

Steve Facey, executive vice president of the cathedral administration, said the project remains essentially the same as its initial proposal at a community forum in 2012

Facey added that it will take approximately four to six months to get to a formal lease, and afterward it may take around six to nine months for construction to begin. The cathedral, he said, would continue to work with Community Board 9 throughout the process. 

Laura Friedman, president of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, said that the committee continues to oppose the project and views it as a detriment to the neighborhood. The MHHDC, which has taken a strong stance against the project since its inception, has been circulating a petition and gaining the support of local elected officials. 

“The stewardship of this grand cathedral lies not only in the hands of the trustees of the cathedral, but with all of us who value its architectural and historic presence,” Friedman said. 

Friedman added that the difficulty the cathedral has had in securing a developer may reflect underlying issues with the project itself. 

“We wonder why it is that they’re having so much trouble retaining a developer,” Friedman said, adding that she thought the cathedral had already cycled through four or five potential developers. “What does that indicate?”

Friedman said she would be interested in meeting with Brodsky Organization.

Harry Schwartz, leader of the MHHDC splinter group Friends of Saint John the Divine, said the group would continue to look into the developer’s plans. 

“The plan to develop 113th Street is inappropriate for the neighborhood,” Schwartz said. 

avantika.kumar@columbiaspectator.com  |  @avantikaku 

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Ann posted on

The Cathedral's finances are an absolute mess and have been for years. They already build the Avalon building on Morningside Drive on their property, and now they are going to build two more?!

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