Archdiocese lobbies public to support Midtown East rezoning

Change would free St. Patrick's Cathedral to sell air rights throughout district
September 30, 2015 11:50AM

As droves of people gathered at Madison Square Garden last week to celebrate mass with Pope Francis, volunteers distributed literature on behalf of the Archdiocese of New York seeking support for a controversial land use matter.

The archdiocese is backing a Midtown East rezoning that would allow St. Patrick’s Cathedral to sell its unused air rights to developers. In June, a committee studying the neighborhood’s development potential proposed freeing up landmarked properties, like St. Patrick’s, to sell air rights anywhere within the rezoned district.

Such sales are currently limited to adjacent properties, according to Politico. Under the proposal, the city would take a percentage of each air rights sale and put it toward other public improvements in the area.

The handout distributed by volunteers last week, addressed to “elected officials,” noted that the sale of the air rights “would not only safeguard the future” of the historic Fifth Avenue cathedral but “strengthen” the archdiocese’s charitable and education programs.

Crowds filing into Madison Square Garden before the Pope’s mass were also greeted with an announcement, played repeatedly, asking attendees to fill out petition cards as a public showing of support for the Midtown East rezoning.

Andrew Penson, the owner of Grand Central Terminal, sued SL Green and the city on Monday — alleging that air rights at Grand Central became “worthless” after the city agreed to rezone SL Green’s Vanderbilt Corridor in Midtown East in exchange for $220 million in public infrastructure improvements. [Politico]Rey Mashayekhi