The Archdiocese of New York is battling with the royal family of Brunei over rent for land they own across Madison Avenue from St Patrick's Cathedral. A corporation linked to the royal family, which owns the 54 storey Palace Hotel at the prestigious location, has paid the archdiocese $1 million a year in rent since 1979. Manhattan property values have rocketed since that time and the rate is now up for review under the terms of the lease. The church is asking for $9 million a year - the going rate for the area. But, according to negotiators, the family does not want to pay more than $4.5m. The family's lawyers argue that the adjoining Villard Houses, home of the fashionable Gold Room and Le Cirque 2000 restaurant, drag down the value of the Palace. Lawyers are now studying the terms of the lease, which was first signed in 1974 by Harry Helmsley, the original owner of the Palace, and Cardinal Terence Cooke. The archdiocese filed suit in State Supreme Court this week, asking a judge to value the land. "They've been paying $1 million a year since 1979," David S Brown, director of real estate for the archdiocese told the press. "You can see it's been quite a bargain. We want a fair result. We don't bring lawsuits very often, if ever. But the diocese uses its funds to serve the religious, charitable and basic human needs of millions of people in this area."
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