Church facing foreclosure over taxes

GLOVERSVILLE – The owners of a church under court order to restore its stained-glass windows and steeple clocks and pay $60,000 in fines also owe thousands of dollars in back taxes.

The Church of God of Prophecy of New York Holding Corp., which owns the former First Methodist Church in Gloversville’s Bleecker Square, is facing foreclosure after it failed to pay taxes for two years, said Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett.

“Churches are exempt if they are a religious organization,” Blodgett said. “Now, if they stop having services and the assessor takes it off the exemption, then it goes back on the tax roll again.”

He said the church owes school, city and county taxes some dating as far back as 2011. In total, Blodgett said, the church owes $8,261 in taxes.

The structure’s tax-exempt status was removed in 2009 because it no longer is used as a congregational meeting place.

The last chance of redemption-payment of taxes- has been set for May, although the building may go to the county in April, Blodgett said.

“We will take the property if the taxes are not paid,” Blodgett said. “They have up until the third week prior to auction to redeem the property, and if they can, we’ll sign the deed back over to them.”

He said if no payment is made by June, the county will auction the property to the highest bidder.

The church failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to restore clocks and windows at the church, and has not paid $60,000 in fines.

The court ruling stated if the church 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 fines.

City Attorney Anthony Casale said City Court recently issued an amended order because of a technicality in the original decision made in 2011.

“The technicality was the name of the corporation was not the proper name of the corporation,” Casale said. “So we had to get that corrected, which it now has, and we are in the process of serving the church with the corrected order.”

According to the amended order issued by Judge Traci DiMezza Sept. 3, the previous order erroneously identified the defendant as “Church of Prophecy of New York Holding Corporation” when the actual identification is “Church of God of Prophecy of New York Holding Corporation.”

The order states the sentence and conditional discharges set forth in the December 2011 order remain fully applicable.

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 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.

According to the original court document, as one of the conditional discharges the church had until June 30, 2012, to restore the clocks and windows in accordance with the mandates of the city’s Historic District Review Board, but has not replaced either.

Also as part of the conditional discharge, the church was ordered to maintain the property in the future in strict accordance with city code and proactively market the building for adaptive re-use by a purchaser for a religious, commercial, residential or civic purpose.

Casale said the new order identifies the proper corporation and the decision made in 2011 “remains in full force and effect.”

He said the city will be filing violations of the conditional discharge against the church later this month.

“The city is just looking for the enforcement of the order,” Casale said about the future violations. “That’s the primary objective, the city is looking for enforcement of the order that [the judge] issued.”

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 removal of windows and clocks without approval, after an application had been submitted to the board.

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.

At this time, the church has left boards on all of the windows.

Presiding Bishop of the Northeast Region for the Church of God of Prophecy, Cervin McKinnon didn’t respond to a call or email seeking comment for this story.