Riverdale church opts not to sell land to developer looking to build high rises

Officials have put the brakes on a plan to build a 31-story high rise in Riverdale.

Developer Howard Jonas offered more than $5 million to St. Gabriel Church in Riverdale to buy part of the church's playground and the air rights above church property. The plan was to build a high rise building in the area. But the church decided to favor what was good for the community over cash.

Father Thomas Kelly says the role of the church is to build community. He said that if the church went for the buck that could have divided the community and parish.

The developer's proposal comes at a time when Community Board 8 has zoning plans in the works to keep builders from putting high rises in the area. Anthony Perez Cassino, chairman of Community Board 8, says building a 31-story tower in Riverdale where buildings are six and seven-stories high really is not consistent with what the board thinks the community should look like.

Meanwhile, St. Gabriel's pastor says the developer still owns at least three lots around the church and plans to build something there. Cassino says that's why the community board is pushing the City Council to approve the new zoning.

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