There is a new twist in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's plan to allow two apartment towers to be built on the north side of its campus in exchange for millions of the dollars that it desperately needs for construction and maintenance. Last Thursday, Community Board 9 passed a resolution, backed by the church, to call on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the entire cathedral campus except for the portion that has already been carved out for the Brodsky Organization's towers. St. John has resisted the landmarking of its entire campus for the last decade or so—in 2006, it leased out the southeastern portion to AvalonBay Communities, which built a 20-story apartment tower, and the church has since made no secret of its plan to allow more residential buildings to be constructed in its general vicinity—so clearly the Community Board sees this as an acceptable compromise that will stop the bleeding, so to speak, and protect the church campus from even further development, which, considering how much money the church needs, seems likely without Landmarks stepping in.
Who doesn't see it that way, however, are local preservationists, and they are not happy. "No one wants to see this building come up over here," Laura Friedman, president of Morningside Heights Historic District Committee told the Daily News. (No one, that is, except the developer, church, and 65 percent of the Community Board.) "It's like taking your wife's engagement ring down to the pawn shop. Why would you mortgage your future and not try national fundraising to save the building and campus?" asked a Community Board member who voted against the plan, raising some interesting questions about the nature of engagement rings. In short, this is probably going to make for an exciting Landmarks Commission hearing at some point in the near future.
· Cathedral seeks Divine intervention, preservationists voice condemnation over proposed apartment development [NYDN]
· St. John the Divine Campus Could be Landmarked in Deal With CB 9 [DNAinfo]
· St. John the Divine Will Be Getting 14-Story Apartment Tower [Curbed]