STUDIO | 2020-2021
Faith In Place: A Study and Analysis of Faith-Based Organizations and Real Estate in NYC

Houses of Worship seem ubiquitous in New York City. Yet, many congregations are facing significant hardships while still providing vital services to the greater community. In some cases, gentrification is contributing to shrinking congregations, prompting developers to target existing faith properties, raising property tax bills, and perhaps drawing Department of Building’s attention to code violations. In other cases, congregations are simply struggling to pay their bills and maintain their properties because of overall lack of resources and disinvestment.

Shows the percentage of FBO’s in each NTA that has a Stressor Index Score greater than or equal to 27.

Our studio class worked with Bricks & Mortals (B+M), a membership organization comprised of individuals from both faith-based organizations and the development community to examine how best to help these organization navigate these difficult circumstances. While policy options differ according to neighborhood conditions, we found that market-driven real estate development is too limited to be useful to many struggling congregations. Housing development and air rights sales are restricted by market conditions and location, and may exacerbate gentrification. We also found that landmarking presents a significant burden to houses of worship looking to make physical adaptations.

Two French-speaking churches, Eglise de Dieu Unisson-Nous (left) and Beraca SDA French Church (right) located in Hollis. Courtesy of Stephane Pierre.

Our studio found that FBOs are unique and the neighborhoods in which they are located have pronounced effects on their circumstances. Our studio’s alternative development scenarios and policy recommendations offer B+M a variety of ways to help FBOs engage their assets to ensure that faith properties thrive in the challenging real estate environment of New York City.

At a Glance
Laura Wolf-Powers
Patrick Abelein
Rachel Bondra
Paul Burkholder
Dylan Cepeda
Avi Garelick
Larissa Ho
Charlie Houlton-Vinyl
Dana Leventhal
Max Marinoff
Michael Pasquariello
Stephane Pierre
Kevin Ritter
Alyana Roxas
Rebecca Steiner
Jordan Vogelsang
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