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NYC Cathedral builds new tower for revenue

NYC Cathedral builds new tower for revenue

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City is preparing to lease a part of its property to a developer. The plan is to build a second tower containing residential apartments that will in turn provide a steady revenue stream to the Cathedral. The first tower, finished in 2008, contains 295 apartments with a mix of subsidized and non-subsidized rental agreements.

“The new agreement raises the specter of a second for-profit tower impinging on the Gothic stone silhouette of the church, whose cornerstone was laid in 1892. No significant work has been done on the cathedral building in close to 30 years.

The dean of the Cathedral Church, the Very Rev. James A. Kowalski, said he was resigned to being castigated for the pending construction but was not apologetic about the need for it: “I’m not surprised when I hear from people who say, ‘You’re too lazy to raise money any other way,’ but that opinion is simply incorrect.” Dean Kowalski said that after the north transept of the cathedral was gutted and its historic organ damaged by a fire late in 2001, church leaders realized they needed to seek outside income.”

More about the plans here in the New York Times.

The lease on the first tower generates 2.7 million dollars a year of revenue for the Cathedral’s operating budget. That is about 30% of the total Cathedral annual budget (9 million). If the second tower does the same or better, then nearly 2/3rds of the Cathedral budget will be supported into the next century.


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It is unfortunate the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine has not worked with community groups, such as the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee.

There is a currently a campaign to designate the area a historic district so as to maintain the character of the place. A way must be found to keep Saint John the Divine open while not further eroding the quality of life of the neighborhood.

The Honorable Daniel O’Donnell, State Assembly Member 69th District, supports a Morningside Heights Historic District.

I like Danny because he sponsored the marriage equality bill in the State Assembly. I would have hoped the Cathedral had decent relations with him.

Gary Paul Gilbert


While I don’t have an opinion on this specific project, many churches are using their land to provide affordable housing or homes for the elderly. If done correctly, this could be a very positive outcome for all involved.

Eric Bonetti

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