GLOVERSVILLE- The Church of God of Prophecy, which owns the Bleecker Square church, has failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to restore clocks and windows at the church, but the city may not decide what action it will take until a December deadline for the church to pay $60,000 in fines.
The church was given three conditional discharges and one year to pay $60,000 in fines after stained-glass windows and steeple clocks were removed in February of last year from the 143-year-old church without the Historic Preservation Review Board's consent.
The $60,000 is broken up into five $12,000 fines- one for each of the four facades of the building and one for the steeple, where the clocks were removed.
The Bleecker Square Church in Gloversville, owned by The Church of God of Prophecy, still has boards covering the windows and clock steeple since they were
removed without permission more than a year ago.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
According to the court document, as one of the conditional discharges the church had until June 30 to restore the clocks and windows in accordance with the mandates of the city's Historic District Review Board, but has not replaced either.
At this time, the church has left boards on all of the windows.
The court ruling stated if the church fully and successfully complied with all of the conditions, it would be able to apply on or before Dec. 15 for either a partial abatement or full forgiveness of the fine totaling $60,000.
"The guidelines to make repairs [have] now passed," said City Attorney Anthony Casale. "They [the church] have been sentenced and the sentence calls for a period of time to expire and we are at the last part of that period and any further action by the city will be after the Dec. 15 date set by the court."
Casale declined to comment on what exactly the city will do when the deadline comes or whether there will be any additional fines for the churches inaction.
"I have not heard from the church or their attorneys in any way shape or form since the day of sentencing," Casale said.
Robert Meringolo, an antiques and art expert and dealer from Westerlo hired by the church to handle the project, said a miscommunication with his project partner, Joe Bailey, the owner of From Europe to You, resulted in the windows and clocks removal without approval, after an application had been submitted to the board.
Meringolo and Bishop Cervin McKinnon, of the Northeast Region of the Church of God of Prophecy, noted many of the church's historic windows were broken before they were removed, and the building had been the target of vandals.
The Church of God of Prophecy Northeast Region, based in Albany, has owned the Bleecker Square Church since 2000, when it was purchased for $60,000, according to tax map data.
McKinnon said he is disappointed with the way things turned out by the church using Meringolo, but he was under the impression that he was going to work with the city to prevent the vandalization and other property damage from occurring. He said if the city was able to provide proper assistance in dealing with the broken windows and break-ins, the church never would have had to use Meringolo's services.
"Meringolo was intended to be an attempt to save the building and do what we designed to do all along," said McKinnon. "That was to work with the city and provide some type of meaningful service to the residents of Gloversville. It would have been great for this whole process if I would have been given the opportunity to walk side by side with the city and historical board and together came up with a plan of how to resolve this, but that never happened."
McKinnon said as a result, he has been forced to strictly use his legal council to seek a resolution on the issue, and anything he said was not considered by city officials. He said the city rushed to get fines, judgment and used "heavy hands" in the matter, leaving no room for compromise.
"It is horrible that the city would do that against the church," McKinnon said. "A church doesn't sit somewhere with a pot of gold, it receives money through donations. I am extremely disappointed from the mayor on down that the leadership there is so callused that their way of responding to a church is to bound them with fines as opposed to finding a solution where we can work together."
"We are willing to hear whatever [McKinnon] has to say, but it's not effective to our city code," Mayor Dayton King said. "We want the building to be restored and put back to the state it was in before things were removed. I think the city has been open to meet with the bishop and their attorney, but you can't just take those things out without approval and then try to negotiate after."
The Historic Preservation Review Board accepted a plan for replacement windows at its Dec. 1, 2011, meeting but no action was ever taken.
Kevin Richard of Steven E. Smith Engineering and Architecture of Gloversville originally presented the plan to the board on behalf of the Church of God of Prophecy, but he is no longer employed with the company, Steven Smith said.
"We haven't heard of any movement on that project," said Smith. "There was a plan approved about a year ago to replace those windows and the church just hasn't moved forward in doing that. We haven't been contacted one way or the other to do anything about it."
Also as part of the conditional discharge, the church was ordered to pro-actively maintain the property in the future in strict accordance with city code and proactively market the building for adaptive re-use by a bona fide purchaser for a religious, commercial, residential or civic purpose.
McKinnon said the church has not been actively trying to sell the property because that is not what they intended to do, but did mention it was a possible option.
King said the church building is one of largest buildings downtown and it is unfortunate to have a building with boards on the windows because that will not attract future businesses.
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.