By Madina Toure
St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone sold a portion of the parish property located across from its school, St. Luke’s School, to pay off its $3 million debt.
In the April 24 bulletin of the church, located at 16-34 Clintonville St., Rev. Monsignor John Tosi said that a number of months ago, he announced at all the Sunday Masses the decision to sell property that constitutes a little more than half of the parking lot.
The church declined to comment further on the decision.
The property has been sold for the construction of one- and two-family homes compatible with already existing homes in the surrounding area. As of Thursday, the closing date, the parish will no longer be able to use the land. The remaining part will continue to be used as a parking lot.
The selling price for the property will enable the church to pay off its debt, complete necessary repairs to parish buildings and set aside funds for future needs.
“Change is never easy so I am sure that there will be a necessary period of transition,” Tosi wrote in the bulletin. “I will be working closely with Mrs. Reiter and Sister Katherine to prepare new procedures for the arrival and dismissal of students from both the school and Religious Education Program.”
He said the decision followed consultation with the Parish Pastoral Council, the Parish Trustees and the Parish Finance Council.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the zoning allows for one- and two-family homes to be built on the property but that if the restriction is not stated in the deed, a developer can still go to the city Board of Standards and Appeals for a variance for greater density.
“I’m trying to find out from the church whether or not they put something in the deed,” Avella said. “They may have thought that the zoning is enough given developments in the areas in the city these days. It’s not.”
Alfred Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, said that around three years ago, the church held a pledge drive to raise funds for renovations but that some of the pledges fell through.
“I’ve got to say, St. Luke’s is very involved in the community. I can’t see them selling to a non-responsible developer that’s going to turn around and just overbuild,” Centola said. “I really don’t know much other than I have every confidence that they sold it to someone who’s going to do the right thing.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour