Villager photos by Clayton Patterson
At St. Brigids fundraiser last Friday, from left: Jerome OConnor, Edwin Torres, Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Sylvia Friedman, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and State Senator Martin Connor. Below, surprise guest developer Gregg Singer.
Huh? Old P.S. 64 owner offers to buy St. Brigids
By Lincoln Anderson
Crashing last Fridays benefit to save St. Brigids Church was none other than Gregg Singer, the embattled owner of the nearby old P.S. 64. He even contributed to the fundraiser, though, he admitted, it was not a lot of money.
Singer hung around at the benefit more than an hour. Not surprisingly, his presence raised a few eyebrows.
One woman said, Are you Gregg Singer? What are you here for? he said. I said, I want to save the church. In fact, if hes to be believed, Singer said hed might want to buy the Avenue B church, demolition of which is on hold pending a court hearing this Thursday. Fixing the churchs damaged east wall, he said, shouldnt be that hard, and certainly wouldnt cost anywhere near the $7 million the archdiocese claims.
I would buy it, but I would have to do it for something that makes sense, Singer said. Maybe make it a homeless shelter maybe it could be an annex or something, he said, referring to the old P.S. 64, at 605 E. Ninth St., which hes currently converting into a privately run homeless center and treatment facility. Another option for the church could be senior, low-income housing, he said. Singer added that if he can work something out even if he doesnt buy the property he could put the community space that hes offered Councilmember Rosie Mendez he would include in the old P.S. 64 providing he were allowed to do luxury apartments at the old P.S. 64 instead of a shelter into the old church instead. That could be interesting. Maybe thats an idea and I could help fund that, he said.
Singer asked The Villager for a contact at the Catholic archdiocese, and was given the number of spokesperson Joe Zwilling. Singer promptly called Zwilling and reported back that Zwilling was out until Thursday, but that hell keep trying to reach him.
The archdiocese insists the St. Brigids property will be used for some Catholic mission- or charities-related purpose.
Michael Rosen, a leader of the East Village Community Coalition, said Singers contribution to the St. Brigids fund should be returned. Noting that on Monday Singers workers were erecting scaffolding so they could continue to chop historic details off the old schools exterior providing a stop-work order is lifted Rosen said, The community has spent years and a great amount of effort getting landmark designation for the old P.S. 64. Mr. Singer has acted with maliciousness in stripping this building. Hes mocked this community. I cant imagine what he would do if he were in control of St. Brigids.
Singer says the city is forcing him to strip the details off the building, since it wont extend his demolition permit, which expires next month. The developer hopes to overturn the buildings June landmarking in court by stripping the exterior using his pre-existing permit that was issued two years ago.
Rosen recently floated the idea to The Villager that the church could build a new facility on two adjacent lots that are part of the St. Brigids property, including a vacant lot in the blocks interior and another vacant lot east of the church. The new building could use the churchs air rights, Rosen said.
Told of Rosens idea, Singer said hes interested and would like to hear more about it.
Paul Dougherty, a member of the Committee to Save St. Brigids, referred questions to Rosen of E.V.C.C., saying that the old P.S. 64 issue was too loaded for him to comment on Singers offer. However, Jerome OConnor, another member of the committee, said while hes not as familiar with the old P.S. 64 struggle, hes willing to listen to Singers offer to try to save the church.
What would he want in exchange? OConnor asked. I would talk with anybody. Im not part of E.V.C.C. Im involved with the church. Ive only heard the E.V.C.C. side of the story
. I know he bought the building when people were giving them away because no one would take them.
OConnor is also calling on Mayor Bloomberg, who is currently in Ireland where he is honoring New Yorks historic Fighting 69th Brigade, to state his opinion on what he thinks should happen to St. Brigids.
Bloombergs over in Ireland
.but the first captain of the Fighting 69th came from St. Brigids, said OConnor.
I was surprised to see him there, said Councilmember Mendez of Singers appearance at the St. Brigids fundraiser. She said he came up to speak to her but she told him she couldnt.
Hes suing the city and my name is in the lawsuits. I told him his attorneys can talk to my attorneys, said Mendez, who has a confidentiality agreement with Singer stemming from their negotiations on July 6 over the old P.S. 64. Told of Singers latest offer, she said, I dont know what he means by that. I dont know if its part of a new offer or part of the CHARAS/old P.S. 64 offer.
Meanwhile, archdiocese spokesperson Zwilling last week told The Villager that the windows at St. Brigids Church that demolition workers smashed with long crowbars at the end of last month to the anguish of protesters who pleaded with the workers to stop the destruction werent stained glass but less-valuable painted glass.
We had them evaluated and they were not stained glass, Zwilling said, noting he personally requested the evaluation more than a year ago. Not only were they not monetarily worth as much as stained glass, but some of the windows had been painted over numerous times and so were not original, Zwilling said. The archdiocese does sometimes remove stained glass windows and store them for reuse in other churches, he noted.
Everything that was of historical or liturgical value [from St. Brigids] has been removed and put in storage, Zwilling said.