City regulations forbid the historic Fifth Avenue church, built in 1878, from adding any more square footage to the existing property, but the Archdiocese of New York is lobbying to change the rules, DNAinfo reported.
Under the nascent rezoning proposal, developers in Midtown East would be permitted to build on top of existing buildings, as well as demolish buildings to create taller ones. This could unlock thousands of square feet of new office space — and billions in new construction revenue — in the stretch from East 39th to East 57th streets between Second and Fifth avenues.
However, the Archdiocese would be unable to cash in under the rezoning rules, since landmarked buildings cannot be knocked down or built on.
“There has to be some way at some point for some benefit to be given to these buildings,” Archdiocese director of real estate David Brown reportedly said at a joint meeting of Community Boards 4, 5 and 6. “The landmarks shouldn’t be disadvantaged by it.”
The Archdiocese owns several buildings in Midtown East, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Park Avenue at East 50th Street. There are about 30 landmarked buildings and interiors total in the rezoning area, Community Board 5 estimates.
Brown said that the majority of the earnings for selling St. Patrick’s air rights would fund the church’s $180 million restoration, according to DNAinfo.
The City Planning Department is slated to meet Sept. 27 to decide the reach of the new zoning regulations.