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IS THE SKY THE LIMIT HERE IN MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS? WILL OUR FUTURE BE CAST IN CONCRETE?

A recent spate of development threatens to change the face of our historic community with luxury housing. From the new apartments on the grounds of St. John the Divine to the former nurses residence diagonally across the street, to what’s going up at Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary…. our neighborhood is changing …and not for the better.

To say nothing of the “soft sites,” those low buildings, which dot our neighborhood.

To look into these developments, MHHDC decided to initiate the Morningside Heights Community Coalition (MHCC). This new organization consists of community groups in MSH and individual coops throughout the neighborhood who are working together to try and have an impact on these projects.

Here is what we have learned about the Institutions that have decided to sell their air rights and what they plan to do:

JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (JTS)

JTS SOLD 262,000 SQ FT OF DEVELOPMENT AIR RIGHTS AND A RESIDENCE HALL TO SAVANNA. On Feb. 1, 2016 JTS announced it had sold a parcel of land on the Seminary’s eastern edge of the campus and 262,000 Sq Ft of unused development air rights over the campus and the right to purchase the off-campus Schecter Residence Hall to Savanna Real Estate Fund for $96 million. Savanna assigned the right to purchase the Residence Hall to an undisclosed buyer. In February, 2016, JTS sold a second residence hall, the 48,000 SF, six-story Goldsmith Hall at 3060 Broadway, for $35.3 million.[1]

JTS WILL APPARENTLY BUILD A 15-STORY TOWER. JTS will use the proceeds of its sales to build a new tower – an expansion on its existing complex. It will demolish its current library, built on the eastern edge of the campus in the 1980s, and replace it with the new tower that will include a performing-arts space, a new library and a residence hall built above it that can house 150 students. The Forward reported that the new building would be “an approximately 10-story tower.”[2] It is estimated that the final height of the new JTS tower, built on top of the complex, will total 15-stories.

SAVANNA REAL ESTATE FUND (TOWER DEVELOPER)

SAVANA WILL BUILD A RESIDENTIAL TOWER AT THE EASTERN END OF JTS’S CAMPUS, HEIGHT UNDISCLOSED. Savanna, JTS’s development partner, proposes to build a residential tower on the eastern end of the JTS site. The footprint of their building, according to the Wall Street Journal, includes “a small parking lot and a portion of the land where the soon-to-be-demolished library now sits.

Savanna hired the architecture firm of Beyer Blinker Belle to carry out their proposal to develop a 250,000 square-foot residential tower on the lot on the complex’s east end. Beyer Blinker Belle is the same firm that developed the Manhattan School of Music’s 19-story, 242,00 SF Andersen Hall in 2001.[3]

UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (UTS)

In Dec. 2015 UTS announced plans to build a luxury-condominium tower on its campus by selling 350,000 Sq Ft of air development rights to a developer. The condo tower will be located on the northern portion of the quadrangle in the center of Union’s campus. Although a UTS spokesperson would not provide the specific height of the proposed tower, she said it would “respect” the 392-foot tower of the nearby Riverside Church. An air rights expert estimated that the tower could likely be 35 to 40 stories in height. UTS said the first eight floors of the building would be used for staff housing and “the two-, three- and four-bedroom units above the eight floor would sell at market rates, ranging from nearly $2 million to $6 million.”

Please join with those of us in the Morningside Heights Community Coalition (MHCC) to try and maintain our community, protect our buildings, make sure that local services are not over utilized and that affordable housing is all part of the mix.

 

[1] Keiko Morris, “Jewish Theological Seminary Taps Real Estate to Update Manhattan Campus” (The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2016). Katherine Clarke, “Jewish Theological Seminary gets $35 M for Morningside Heights building” (The Real Deal, Feb. 11, 2016).

[2] John A. Oswald, “Historic Jewish Theological Seminary Plans $96M Campus Modernization” (Forward, Feb. 1, 2016).

[3] Morris (The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2016).