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Next to landmark Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, a housing complex rises

A new apartment complex next to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine hopes to offer an alternative to Columbia students who may have had their fill of residence hall living.

The 15-story rental building located on 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, “Enclave at the Cathedral,” was developed by the Brodsky Organization, after the cathedral leased them a portion of the surrounding land for a period of 99 years. Construction began in early 2014, and the finished building will provide 430 units with rental prices ranging from $2,400 to $7,100 a month.

According to Isadora Wilkenfeld, manager of the Office of Programming and Communication at the Cathedral, the new development will bring the cathedral a much needed revenue stream that they would not have been able to acquire by other methods, such as fundraising and budget reductions.

The development is an 80/20 building, meaning that 20 percent of the units will be available to low-income tenants. Almost 70,000 applications were received for 87 apartments. The other 80 percent of the units will be rented at the market rate. The first 75 apartments have already been rented, and construction is expected to conclude by June.

The apartment complex has already attracted multiple members of the Columbia community.

Developer Thomas Brodsky said the organisation had predicted that around 50 percent of the tenants would be from the Columbia, Barnard, and Jewish Theological Seminary school communities.

“Whether it’s a professor, or graduate student or undergraduate, or recently graduated student, we’ve been seeing a lot of traffic from Columbia,” Brodsky said.

Brodsky also highlighted the multiple benefits that will be offered for tenants of the building. “We have done a lot of outreach within the neighborhood,” Brodsky said. Tenants of the building will be able to enjoy multiple discounts in different nearby businesses, and a gallery space on the first floor will show art exhibitions from local artists and host public lectures, among other activities.

“We want to be a good neighbor for everyone,” he said.

In addition to constructing the apartment building, the Brodsky Organization has been repairing several deteriorated parts of the cathedral, including its steps and one of its wings which was significantly damaged in a fire in late 2001.

But the project has not received unanimous approval. Neighbors, preservationists, and members of the community have been displeased with the construction, believing its modern architecture contrasts with and obstructs the world’s largest Anglican cathedral. One of their main concerns is that this new development will transform the area’s historical landscape.

“That sight, historically, it really was seen by the architect of the cathedral as sort of a sacred precinct,” former Community Board 9 member Brad Taylor said.

Others were unconvinced that the cathedral had no other options to raise revenue and saw the decision as a disservice to the community.

“It is a crying shame they will have to live with, as a stain in their legacy. They claimed they needed the money, but there are other alternatives they could have explored to get the money,” Morningside Heights Historic District Committee President Laura Friedman said. “We tried to influence this process before and while it was being built, and we were unsuccessful because this particular administration decided that this had to be done and we see that they have violated the community’s trust.”

Brodsky addressed the negative responses, saying the organization was eager to meet with the critics of the development to work on a unified solution, but the latter had been unwilling to do so and were opposed to any kind of construction in that location—a stance Brodsky deemed unrealistic, given the cathedral’s need to repair facilities such as the boilers and electrical system.

“It would be great if all New York City were open in all historical landmarks,” Brodsky said. “But unfortunately the cathedral has to pay bills like everyone else and they have a lot of deferred maintenance.”

Correction, Apr. 27, 2016: An earlier of the article incorrectly stated the height of the building and the range of rental prices of the apartments. 

news@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

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