NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Local politicians and community leaders joined Rep. Jerrod Nadler on Saturday in opposing the construction of two luxury high-rise buildings near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights.

The apartments are being built by the Brodsky Organization on land leased from the cathedral, 1010 WINS reported.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, the prospect of building the apartment buildings in the shadow of the historic cathedral — in the opinion of the protesters — is the ruining of holy land.

“It is sacrilegious, it is unholy, it is anti-community and it’s unnecessary,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins.

“Unimaginable has come to pass. Demolition, or should I say, desecration has begun on the northern here of West 113th Street,” said Morningside Heights historic district’s Laura Friedman.

“This cathedral is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, not saint john the developer,” said City Councilman Mark Levine.

“Can you imagine this happening beside Notre Dame or St. Peter’s,” one protester shouted.

St. John’s said that it was leasing the space because it needed the money.

“The wealthiest church is poor? What are the rest of us?” Perkins asked.

Church leaders said leasing the land will generate money for the cash-strapped cathedral, paying for tens of millions of dollars in repairs still needed after a major fire in 2001.

In a statement released on Saturday, a cathedral spokesperson said that the project would benefit the neighborhood.

“This project by the Brodsky Organization will provide affordable housing for the neighborhood, create jobs for the community, establish new open space and extend our mission and outreach, all while allowing us to raise funds to take care of all the buildings that make up the Cathedral complex, for the enjoyment of many people for decades to come. The Cathedral will continue to work with the Brodsky Organization to keep leaders in the community apprised of the construction details as we have throughout the process,” the statement said.

Councilman Levine blasted the church’s defense, taking aim at its idea of “affordable housing.”

“Those factors are unconnected…and affordable housing? 80 percent of these units will be luxury housing, the vast majority,” Levine said.

The Brodsky Organization said it is abiding by all city, state, and federal laws in regard to the project.

A petition opposing the project has already collected more than 1,100 signatures. Opponents hope to stop the construction in court.

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