New York Post Response
June 2, 2013
As president of the Parish Council of St. Spyridon, I am compelled to respond to the perfidious article that your newspaper published on June 2, 2013. The article, written by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, is replete with slander, innuendo, and a convenient manipulation of the facts involving an organization that has blossomed over the last few years to become financially sound and continues its mission to its parish and its community. I will address the pertinent issues raised in the article that are worthy of a response.
The parish and its organizations follow carefully the uniform parish regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and functions in compliance with the Religious Corporation Acts of the state of New York.
Finances are the complete responsibility of the Parish Council. All decisions both financial and administrative are made by a duly elected Parish Council consisting of fifteen members, five of which are elected annually for 3 year terms. Amongst the officers elected are the Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer whose responsibility it is to oversee the finances of the church and to present all transactions that have not been pre-approved by the annual budget to the parish council. The Treasurer of record and parish council member is Mrs. Ethel Bouzalas and the Assistant Treasurer is Mr. Savva Demoleas. Minutes are kept and all meetings follow Roberts rules of order. Every item is discussed and those that require a vote are approved by a majority vote. Issues such as mortgages and the annual budget are presented and voted upon twice a year at meetings where the entire parish membership is invited. Items not included in the annual budget must be brought to the general assembly for their approval. At the last general assembly meeting the proposed $3.5 million mortgage was presented, discussed, and voted upon with only one dissenting vote.
The real facts which are misrepresented in the article is that we had a forensic audit conducted by Cohen Greve & Company under the direction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The auditors found no nefarious acts or malfeasance regarding the finances of the church and school. (Ms. Vincent had a copy of this audit.) Alma Realty is audited annually by an outside independent agency.
Six years ago when Fr. George Passias began his ministry here at St. Spyridon, the church was about to lose all of its real estate holdings. Some of the reasons for this are the following:
• The buildings had amassed over 600 violations that were all but unaddressed. (currently there are only 33 violations)
• Seven illegal apartments, precariously wired, existed in the basements of the buildings
• There were insufficient funds to purchase heating oil to heat the buildings
• All the roofs on the four buildings were damaged and leaking.
• Kitchen cabinets on the upper floors were falling from the walls endangering the occupants of the apartments.
• The buildings were so rat infested that maintenance people would not enter the basements for repairs
• There were legal proceedings against the buildings from vendors.
• SHAMELESSLY, THERE WAS A BROTHEL IN THE BASMENET OF ONE OF THE BUILDINGS! IT WAS ADDRESSED BY THE NEWLY-ELECTED PARISH COUNCIL, WHICH WAS UNCOVERED WHEN IT HIRED ALMA REALTY TO MANAGE THE BUILDINGS. THESE ARE THE REASON WHY THE FINACIAL OVERSEERERS OF “THE BUILDINGS” WERE REMOVED AS REFERECED IN THE ARTICLE. (The superintendent quoted in your article was the superintendent of record at the time)
In the five years that Alma Realty has managed the properties, all of these problems have been addressed and corrected. The rent roll has increased from $644,000 to $1,000,000 annually. So decrepit was the condition of the buildings that the only bank, Alma Bank, accepted to grant it the mortgage.
The use of the determined $3.5 million proceeds for the proposed refinancing are to repay the existing mortgage that will lower the current interest rate, repay financial obligations used to address the above-stated real estate problems, and allow us to legally develop the basement areas that will generate additional revenues.
It is the current parish council and representatives of Alma Realty who petitioned for assistance to the Manhattan District Attorney. I made that very clear to Isabelle Vincent in my call to her, where I covered all of the issues raised in her article. I explicitly offered to deliver, in person, all the facts for the reporters’ examination. Ostensibly, none of these were deemed worthy to be included in the article.
In closing, the parish council has acted in an honorable, professional, and successful manner regarding the overall operation of the church, school, and buildings. We are eternally grateful for the sacrifice and efforts of Fr. George Passias, for his uncompromising commitment to his parish and his community. We are further indebted to the altruistic stewardship and tireless efforts of Mrs. Ethel Bouzalas; and, of course, Alma Realty for literally saving the buildings and, ultimately, saving the parish.
Parish Council President of St. Spyridon
As you can see from our response above. The Parish Council is in full support of our Priest and our Treasurer. Please help us to support our Priest, our Treasurer and our Church by writing e-mails to the editor of the New York Post at firstname.lastname@example.org and to the Archdiocese at email@example.com Thank you for your continued love and support
Yours in Christ,
St. Spyridon Church