Thursday, March 5, 2015

Roosevelt Island's St Cabrini Catholic Parish Objects To New RIOC 3 Month Fee Policy For Use Of Good Shepherd Community Center - RIOC Says All Community Groups Must Be Treated Equally For Limited Space

Roosevelt Island's landmarked Chapel of the Good Shepherd

is managed and operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) and used as a community center by local organizations including religious
Image of Catholic and Episcopalian parishes Thanksgiving prayer service from Frank Farance

and secular groups. According to the NY Landmarks Conservancy:
The Chapel of the Good Shepherd has been a community center for Roosevelt Island residents... but it was originally built in 1888-9 to serve as an Episcopal mission to the Almshouse on then-named Blackwell’s Island....

... From 1997 to 2002, state assembly representative Pete Grannis and the New York State legislature allocated a series of state grants, totaling $312,000, towards the restoration of Good Shepherd...
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society adds:
... The chapel was commissioned by George M. Bliss (1816-1896), an important New York banker, who began his career in the dry goods business. Through successful speculation during the Civil War, he amassed a large fortune, and in 1869 he joined Levi P. Moron, later a Vice-President of the United States, in a banking business under the firm name of Morton, Bliss & Company. In his later years he served as Treasurer of the Protestant Episcopal Mission Society which administered the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

Today the chapel serves a new and more general purpose, as a community center for the residents of the island’s new housing complex. It has also been rededicated to serve as an ecumenical place of worship....
In 2013, RIOC completed a 8 hundred thousand dollar restoration and renovation of the Good Chapel roof.

Among the religious organizations that use the Good Shepherd Community Center for worship services are:
During last evening's March 5 Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Meeting Public Comment Session, Sue Pirard read the following statement

on behalf of St Francis Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church priest Thomas Kallumady:
Fr. Thomas Kallumady cannot be here tonight so he has asked me to go on record and explain what is happening to our faith community at Good Shepherd.

We have been asked by RIOC several months ago to pay up front for our use of GS by a term of six months. Fr. Has explained to RIOC that we don’t receive our collections 6 months in advance and that it is not possible for us to pay for our mass times 6 months in advance. After much negotiation RIOC agreed, but stated they want three months in advance and if we don’t give that to them, we would lose our mass times. Fr. Again informed RIOC that we don’t get our collection three months in advance, but only monthly. We could not do this. We had not heard back from RIOC and continued to make our monthly payments.

For those here tonight who are not Catholic, our mass times are universal, international mass times. They do not change parish to parish, state to state, country to country.

At our parish council meeting last night, Fr. Shared with us the email he received from Donna Moseley. It stated that we were to pay three months in advance by April 1st or we would be locked out of GS and they would have personnel at the door to make sure we could not enter.

Not only were we deeply offended with the tone RIOC took with us, the timing of their negotiations puts us out of our worship space at the beginning of Holy week, with Easter Sunday on the 5th.

When Good Shepherd Chapel was built it was built with the intent of being used as a worship space. However and why ever worship space changed into a community center left us with a serious issue. RIOC states to us that anyone who rents space at GS must pay in advance for that space. We are sure that RIOC understands the differences between for profit and not for profit. How can any church that depends on its collections to pay the rent be treated as a for profit that can pay in advance.

We have lost revenue by the closing of our thrift shop. We are operating on a month to month basis. We would like our faith communities of residents on Roosevelt Island to come together to discuss with RIOC a way we can continue to worship in our space and have the respect of RIOC while we additionally respect the requirements of the for profits that also occupy the same space. We are NOT asking that we not pay rent, only that we pay as we and other faiths in the same space have always paid, month to month.

Thank you. 
Here is the email sent from RIOC to Father Kallumudy regarding fees for the use of Good Shepherd Community Center:
Good Afternoon-

Attached you will find your invoices for April, May, and June. The total permit fee is $2540.00. Payment must be received IN FULL before you may enter the Good Shepherd Community Center in April. We will have staff present to ensure compliance with our permitting policies.

Just to reiterate, as is RIOC policy across the board for ALL permits, no one will be permitted into the Good Shepherd Community Center if the permit fee is not received prior to your first scheduled date.

Please let me know if you have any questions.
Today, I asked RIOC President Charlene Indelicato:
During last night's RIRA meeting, it was reported that RIOC is seeking 3 months rent in advance from the local Catholic Parish for their Mass times at the Good Shepherd Community Center.

It was also stated that if the 3 month rental fee was not provided to RIOC by April 1, the parish would be "locked out" of using Good Shepherd.

Is that true?

Any comment on this matter.
Ms. Indelicato replied that RIOC must treat all organizations seeking to use RIOC controlled premises, such as the Good Shepherd Community Center, on a first come equal basis.

She added that if the St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Parish wants to pay for the use of Good Shepherd Chapel on a monthly basis they may do so but that will not guarantee the Catholic Parish's use of the Chapel for the next month if another group pays for it before Cabrini.

During last evening's RIRA meeting, the RIRA Common Council approved a motion asking RIOC to maintain the monthly fee

for Roosevelt Island religious organizations using Good Shepherd Chapel.

Roosevelt Island is a growing community with a variety of organizations, both established and new, seeking low cost or no cost meeting space. It is an ongoing issue not only with the Catholic Parish's use of Good Shepherd but other groups such as the Main Street Theater & Dance Alliance's use of the recently renovated Cultural Center.


Karen Stewart said...

The community space in Good Shepherd, as well as the same in the Senior Center was designated in the original lease with the State of New York, and, more importantly, created and built with HUD money and, like all HUD spaces, regulated by law. Years ago when RIOC similarly activated some policy out of the blue, RIRA was well served by the help of Tony Morenzi who was at the time so Pete Grannis' office. I believe he still works with one of the RI public servants and should be appealed to for his expertise.

SherieL said...

Tony Morenzi no longer works in government. We met him at Rebecca Seawright's swearing in. He works for The Foreign Press Association.