Continued from Part 2
The development of the current parish planning program, Making All Things New, overlapped with the fulfillment of the realignment of churches that began in 2007. The process was meant to be different, according to archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, as reported last April in Capital New York.
“In many senses, what was happening back in 2007 were the easy decisions to reach—the no brainers, if you will. It was much more a top-down process,” Zwilling said. “In this process, every parish is taking part. Every parish has been asked to do a self-evaluation and then to put forward proposals.”
Even so, it was expected that the closures and consolidation of parishes in the current program would be more extensive than the last round. In 2007, the New York Sun listed the specific churches that would be shuttered in New York City: Mary Help of Christians on 12th Street, Our Lady Queen of Angels on 113th Street, St. John the Baptist de la Salle on Staten Island, and St. Mary's in the Bronx. Our Lady of Vilnius, near the Holland Tunnel, would also be closed. But that church was not part of the realignment plan of 2007.
Although Bishop Dennis Sullivan, leader of the realignment program since 2005, claimed the archdiocese had no plans to sell church real estate, by July 2008 the archdiocese was under contract to purchase two parcels of a playground next to Mary Help of Christians Church. The archdiocese already owned a third adjacent parcel and it owned the property where the church stood.
The two parcels under contract totaled 7500 square feet and were owned by the Salesian Society, located in New Rochelle, New York. The Salesians from Turin had originally settled in the East Village, invited in 1898 by Archbishop Michael Corrigan, to provide spiritual guidance for a growing population of immigrant Italians. The Salesians established the original parish Mary Help of Christians, and now the Salesians needed court approval to sell their playground to the archdiocese.
As reported in the The Real Deal on 9 September 2008, the court order revealed that the two parcels owned by the Salesians were sold to the Archdiocese of New York for $10.4 million. The assemblage surrounding the church was complete. It was obvious to anyone in the real estate industry that this assemblage of parcels in the East Village would be very desirable for residential redevelopment.
But in the week that followed, global markets crashed in the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression. Burdened by the collapse of the subprime mortgage markets, residential redevelopment ground to a halt. It would take four years for the real estate industry to make a come back, and four years until the Archdiocese of New York could finally sell the Mary Help of Christians assemblage for $41 million.
"Making All Things New is, in a way, not new at all," Cardinal Dolan wrote in June 2013 in Catholic New York. "We’ve been opening, moving, closing, expanding, or rearranging resources and priorities from the start....What pastoral planning is not is a euphemism for just closing parishes or only changing addresses and canonical names...."
In the context of realignment, the strategy behind Making All Things New sounds instead like a euphemism for redevelopment.
To be continued