One church has a Hail Mary idea to help save its property.
The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in the Upper West Side is proposing a sale of its air rights to a developer a block or more away to pull in millions needed for upkeep and repairs, Crain’s reported. It’s not clear if the church has been in contact with a specific developer.
Air rights, which can be used by developers to increase the size of its projects, typically can’t be sold further away than what’s adjacent to the entity selling the air rights. Religious institutions are increasingly looking to push for an expansion of the policy, however, to keep up with mounting financial struggles.
Only 47 percent of Americans belonged to a church, mosque or synagogue in 2020, down 23 percentage points from 1999, according to Gallup data. Churches still play an outsized role in New York real estate, owning 13 percent of all land in Manhattan.
The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew is in need of $25 million to fix up the property, including the roof, Rev. K Karpen told Crain’s.
Myers Mermel of Tenantwise, a leading broker of air rights involving religious institutions, told Crain’s the church’s 137,000 square feet could be worth between $375 and $500 per square foot, totaling between $51 million and $68 million — more than double what the pastor says is needed.
The city administration is open to considering an expansion of air rights Mayor Eric Adams’ faith adviser, Pastor Gil Monrose, told Crain’s.
There is some precedence for what the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew wants. As part of a 2017 rezoning, three religious institutions were given the ability to sell air rights blocks away in East Midtown. St. Bartholomew’s Church sold 50,000 square feet of air rights to JPMorgan Chase for $20 million, clearing the path for the bank’s 70-story headquarters.
[Crain’s] — Holden Walter-Warner