St. Patrick’s Cathedral looks to change air rights transfer rules

Church can't transfer its roughly 1 million square feet to adjacent lot

From left: St. Patrick's Cathedral and Central Synagogue
From left: St. Patrick's Cathedral and Central Synagogue

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is talking to the city in hopes of changing the rules regarding air rights transfers from landmarked buildings. 

The Archdiocese of New York, together with St. Bartholemew’s Episcopal Church and Central Synagogue, are hoping to sell their air rights to developers who own properties that are not directly adjacent to the landmarked houses of worship, according to the Wall Street Journal. St. Patrick’s, which is surrounded by tall buildings and has trouble finding a spot to transfer its rights to, has about 1.2 million square feet of development rights.

“As much flexibility as possible is needed to give these stranded landmarks the opportunity to sell some of their development rights,” David Brown, the archdiocese’s director of real estate, said at a recent conference, according to the newspaper.

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The city’s rules regarding the transfer of air rights from landmarked buildings stems from a program created in 1968. Under the program’s current rules, air rights transfers from landmarked buildings have to go through the city’s public review process.

Landmarks often don’t have available sites to transfer the rights to, while developers were hesitant to go through the formal review process. Only three new projects have been built with transferred air rights since 1990, according to the Journal. [WSJ] — Claire Moses