Image courtesy Murphy Burnham and Buttrick Architects
Nearly two years ago, St. Patrick’s Cathedral removed the scaffolding that had been shrouding its neo-Gothic facade to reveal a restored landmark. The work was part of a larger four-year $177 million restoration and conservation that’s also included an interior overhaul, renovation of the garden, and a new heating and cooling system. This last component is also now complete, as The Architect’s Newspaper reports that the Cathedral has activated their new, state-of-the-art geothermal plant, just in time to warm things up for St. Patrick’s Day. The system will cut the building’s energy consumption by more than 30 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 94,000 kilograms.
How did they accomplish this?
Last week, the city released their long-awaited Midtown East Rezoning plan, a controversial upzoning of the area bound by Madison and Third Avenues and 39th and 50th Streets that would encourage taller, more modern office towers to attract commercial tenants. One of the debated points is the proposal to permit owners of landmarked properties to sell their air rights across the district, whereas now they can only be transferred to sites directly adjacent or above the existing structure. The city has now embarked on an appraisal of these unused development rights, which amount to 3.6 million square feet and will likely be distributed to the 16 new towers that the rezoning would yield over the next 20 years.
As Crain’s explains, hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, which is part of the reason Mayor Bloomberg’s 2013 attempt at the rezoning failed–opponents were concerned about “the difference between what could be built on a given parcel (such as a soaring office tower) and what actually sits on the site (a church or synagogue a few stories tall).”
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Sure, pretty much everyone living in New York City is familiar with Grand Central Station, Central Park and some of our other more notable landmarks, but these well-known locations still hold secrets that even born-and-bred New Yorkers may be surprised to learn. We’ve gathered together just a few to get you started, but in a city this size, with a history this long, there are many more that await your discovery. How many of these secrets were you aware of?
Find out all about these hidden gems here
The restored façade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral © 6sqft
“Is that St. Patrick’s Cathedral?” asked the passerby.
“Yes. It’s just been cleaned.”
“So that’s why I didn’t recognize it. I was looking for something gray.”
To the pleasure of all, St. Pat’s has emerged from its cocoon and it is brilliant to behold. Scaffolding is still up inside the cathedral, sharing the space with worshippers; and work may go on through the rest of this year. It is an enormous building, after all, occuping a full city block between 50th and 51st Street, and Fifth and Madison Avenues. On the outside the building was always impressive; now it is magnificent. It makes one think of the panoply and power of the Church, stately processions, gorgeous robes, bejeweled crosses and cardinals’ rings, incantations of the priests and congregation extolling the glory of God.
It also makes one think of the cost—$177 million—and wonder how far that money would go to aid the poor and feed the hungry of the earth, traditional missions of Christianity. Not very far, maybe, since world hunger is not assuaged by one meal. But to be a glittering promise of sublime afterlife for millions—that is conceivably worth it.
What’s next for St. Patrick’s?
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, via Wiki Commons
With declining memberships, it has become a common issue among New York City religious institutions that they’re land-rich but cash-poor. To solve the problem, religious leaders are turning to the sale of air rights, allowing developers to build on unused land or above the existing structure or altogether transferring the rights to an adjacent property. It’s the latter trend that’s become the center of debate with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, along with other landmarked institutions, as they’re looking to change the air rights rules to allow transfers to properties that are not directly adjacent. The Wall Street Journal takes a close look at this trend and a city plan that would allow East Midtown landmarks to sell their air rights to sites that are several blocks away.
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