Ka-ching: New York may sell air rights over St. Patrick’s

Details, from the New York Daily News:

The Archdiocese of New York wants to cash in on a proposed upzoning of midtown by selling the lucrative air rights to its landmark properties, including venerable St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Church officials are lobbying city agencies to be allowed to transfer their development rights to any building in the zone, rather than just to buildings directly adjacent.

Developers would pay dearly for the air rights from such landmarked buildings as St. Bartholomew’s and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel because the rights allow them to build higher anywhere within the district stretching from E. 39th to E. 57th Sts. and centered on Grand Central Station.

The landmark buildings themselves would not be altered.

“To be able to transfer air rights anywhere is tremendously beneficial,” said Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal realty services. “If the city is interested in inducing development, it should be interested in allowing developers to compete for air rights.”

Mayor Bloomberg unveiled his plan to encourage tall development in the eastern part of midtown this summer by streamlining much of the time-consuming approval process. The area around Grand Central would see the biggest increase in allowable construction, paving the way for new buildings roughly the height of the 70-story 30 Rockefeller Center if they occupy a full avenue block.

Bloomberg hopes the incentives would lead to demolition of some outdated offices in the area, where the average building went up in 1940. Such buildings could be replaced by taller, more modern facilities…

…Landowners such as the Archdiocese could use the sale to preserve their landmarked properties, as required by law, Knakal said.

“St. Pat’s is undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation that’s not elective, it’s necessary,” he said. “If they could sell their rights they’d be able to more easily restore an iconic building. Why shouldn’t they be able to take advantage of it?”

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