Dear Chancellor Fariña and President Grillo, March 9, 2016

03/09/2016

March 9, 2016

Carmen Fariña, Chancellor
Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Lorraine Grillo, President
School Construction Authority
30-30 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, NY, 11101


Dear Chancellor Fariña and President Grillo,

Our city continues to grow and with it our need for more schools. The challenge we face as a city is juxtaposing that need against a limited amount of land on which to build new schools, especially in areas where new development is occurring. As you know, the limited supply of land is a key barrier to the construction of new schools and every vacant lot must be seen as a potential opportunity for building structures that can be used to educate the city’s children. My district, and the city as a whole, is currently faced with the challenge of impending church closings. Although we wish to avoid the closings, they present a unique and time sensitive opportunity for building new schools that would go a long way in increasing the number of available school seats, and especially pre-kindergarten seats.

Last year, the Archdiocese announced a long list of church closings. I have joined the community in fighting these closings at all levels and am working with parishioners in the appeals process within the Vatican. The closing of any of these churches would be a loss not only to the Catholic community but to all neighborhood residents who benefit directly or indirectly from the cultural and social services administered by the churches. The church closing review process will continue within the Vatican, however. If there is to be a closing of any church especially within my district, there might be some solace in knowing that the church would continue to serve the community as a new school or early childhood education facility where the city’s pre-kindergarteners will learn and grow.

For your reference, here are 18 churches on the “List of Merging Churches and Those That Will Cease Regular Services” from the New York Times on November 2, 2014:

New York County:

  • Nativity Mission, 44 Second Avenue, New York, New York 10003
  • Saint James/Saint Joseph, 5 Monroe Street, New York, New York 10002
  • Saint Stephen/Our Lady of the Scapular, 142 East 29 Street, New York, New York 10016
  • Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, 211 East 83 Street, New York, New York 10028*
  • Saint Stephen of Hungary, 414 East 82 Street, New York, New York 10028*
  • Our Lady of Peace, 237 East 62 Street, New York, New York 10065*
  • Saint Lucy, 344 East 104 Street, New York, New York 10029*
  • Holy Agony, 1834 Third Avenue, New York, New York 10029*
  • Holy Rosary, 444 East 119 Street, New York, New York 10035

*Note: Church in or serving Council District 5

Bronx County:

  • Visitation, 160 Van Cortlandt Park South, Bronx, New York 10463
  • Saint Ann, 3519 Bainbridge Avenue, Bronx, New York 10467
  • Saint Roch, 525 Wales Avenue, Bronx, New York 10455
  • Saint Pius V, 420 East 145 Street, Bronx, New York 10454
  • Saint John Vianney, 715 Castle Hill Avenue, Bronx, New York 10473
  • Nativity of the Blessed Lady, 1531 East 233 Street, Bronx, New York 10466

Richmond County:

  • Saint Mary of the Assumption, 2230 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York 10302
  • Saint Roch, 602 Port Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, New York 10302
  • Saint Mary, 1101 Bay Street, Staten Island, New York 10305

It is of note that Saint Stephen of Hungary is also a school that has served the community since 1928, with 330 students with a pre-kindergarten and grades 3 through 8. To not only lose, the church, its green market, and community activities but the school too, would only compound the loss and add to the shortage of pre-kindergarten seats in my district. I urge you to not only investigate whether each church that may close can easily be converted into a school or pre-kindergarten, but to place special priority for any closing church that already has a school especially a pre-kindergarten.

While I pray that we as a community are successful in keeping these churches open, it is my hope to work with you so that any church that does close is replaced with a new school adding to the pre-kindergarten seats available to residents while maintaining the site as a center for the community and education.

Regards,

Benjamin Kallos

Cc: Mayor Bill de Blasio