Development of the Cathedral Close

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine has announced its intention to allow Columbia University and possibly private developers to build on some of the vacant land on its close.

(UPDATE 6/17/03) The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has announced that it will only landmark the main cathedral building, not the close. This is the single greatest historic-preservation disaster since the demolition of Pennsylvania Station.

The cathedral administration claims it will build nothing harmful to the urban fabric of the community, but it appears that:

1. The cathedral must be planning something that landmarking (of the entire cathedral close) would prevent, since it is fighting to prevent this landmarking.

2. Since a tower is the logical way to maximize financial return on a small parcel of buildable land surrounded by a large underbuilt catchment area for air rights, a tower is what one may logically suspect.

3. Furthermore, since this area is zoned residential, it pretty much has to be an apartment building or a few other things that are permitted.

4. Since new housing construction is not economically viable except for luxury housing, this is what it would have to be.

Therefore, it is likely that the cathedral is scheming to build a luxury apartment tower on their property, or else something for Columbia University, which remains coy about the whole thing.

The community has been rooked too many times in the past not to organize at the earliest possible moment. If we wait until the cathedral has definite plans, they will then claim it's too late to change them, just as Columbia did on the new Law School dorm.

The cathedral can put an end to all complaints by immediately accepting landmarking of the entire close, not just the main building.

Below, an idea of what they could build within the constraints of landmarking, followed by their drawing of what they want to build. As you can see, a rather pleasant campus is quite possible. There is no need to evade landmarking in order to get things built.

Please click here to send a message to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has the power to stop this outrage.

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