September 14, 2017
• We believe religious institutions are significant social, cultural, and ethical bedrocks of New
York City. These institutions feed, clothe, educate, and sustain us and our neighbors.
• Religious institutions are our country’s primary vehicle for social justice having brought relief
to the poor, freedom from slavery, suffrage to women, equal marriage rights to all people, and
now new sanctuary to immigrants.
• These religious institutions need the ability to continue and increase their missions. In some
cases, zoning regulations prohibit the ability of religious institutions to sell or transfer their air
rights depriving these institutions of access to resources that could be employed for the needs
of those in greatest peril.
• We are united in our belief that all religious institutions should be able to sell or lease the air
rights of properties associated with their structures, and that current limits be removed.
• Therefore, we recommend to the Mayor, City Council, and Department of City Planning that
special transfer districts for religious institutions be established along the boundaries of
existing Community Board Districts throughout New York City. These larger, special transfer
districts would constitute receiving sites for excess air rights for all religious institutions
within each District thereby allowing all religious institutions to have full access to their
resources and thereby strengthening our communities, most importantly those in greatest need.
The Council of Churches of the City of New York
The Episcopal Diocese of New York (128 congregations in the City)
The United Methodist Conference (460 congregations in the New York region - 96 in the City)
The Presbytery of New York City (93 congregations in the City)
The New York Conference of the United Church of Christ (44 congregations in the City)
Union Theological Society
Many individual churches and temples
Donna Schraper, pastor Judson Memorial Church
The Council of Churches of the City of New York has done extensive research on the problems with land
marking laws for historic houses of worship. A group, Bricks and Mortals, is seeking strong
support from the City Council and denominational leaders to make proposals to change the law.
We believe making changes to the law will be easier if churches can show they will use part of
their property to build much needed supportive and affordable housing. We strongly urge the
Council and its denominational partners to be in touch with Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at
Judson Memorial Church at 212-477-0361 or firstname.lastname@example.org to offer its help and to
do the political lifting necessary which will be needed to change the law. Landmarked property,
if restrictions are eased or air rights are sold, can be used to build a mix of affordable and
market rate housing and for other purposes. Here is an article about where this has been
done successfully in the city.
The Gravesend Statement was titled to reference the settlement founded by Lady Deborah Moody
in Gravesend, New Amsterdam in 1643. Among the first heterodox religious bodies outside of the
established Dutch Reformed Church in what is now New York City, the Anabaptist village of
Gravesend was also reportedly the first place in the New World in which a woman, Lady Moody,
possessed title to land in her own name. [New York's most famous female Antinomian religious
leader, Anne Hutchinson, arrived a few months earlier in New Amsterdam as we know, but was
located in Westchester and did not hold title to land in her name]. Given that our Bricks and
Mortar project concerns Church property and is led by woman, it seemed fitting to remember the
first courageous churchwoman in New York City to address ecclesiastical property issues.