Gravesend Statement

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 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.


Bringing together the New York City leadership of Christian Denominations and Borough Councils of Churches, including:
Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Disciples, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, and
Independent Churches


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New York, NY 10115-0070


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