Court tells Brooklyn Diocese to pay Middle Village school’s legal bills over rental dispute

Photo: Google Maps, inset: File photo

Christ the King High School’s (CTK) ongoing battle to allow Middle Village Preparatory Charter School (MVP) to rent space on their campus has won a financial victory over the Diocese of Brooklyn.

A state appeals court ruled that the Diocese of Brooklyn will have to cover CTK’s most recent legal fees in the ongoing lawsuit brought by the Diocese.

The funds, which total more than $10,400, “will be used to fund scholarships for deserving students, as soon as the money is received from the Diocese,” according to Michael Michel, president of CTK.

However, according to the Diocese, the court’s ruling indicated that the Appellate Division granted CTK’s reimbursement for out of pocket costs to be paid to a third party printing company.

In May 2017, the Diocese of Brooklyn took legal action against MVP, compelling the CTK board of trustees to disband MVP, which had been renting space on the CTK campus since it opened in 2013, because MVP is not a Catholic school. CTK, which was originally opened in 1962 as a Diocesan high school, however the school was on the verge of permanently closing in the mid 1970s due to financial troubles.

Led by Serphin Maltese, who serves now as the school’s Chairman of the Board, a group of parents and students worked to save the CTK, coming to an agreement in 1976 that the school would run independently from the Diocese, so long as CTK operated as a Catholic school.

However, the Diocese claimed that CTK had violated the terms of a 1976 agreement, and made a motion to remove MVP from the CTK campus.

In September 2017, MVP was granted a temporary restraining order from the Diocese, which allowed them to remain on the CTK campus while the lawsuit is in progress. The school later won its appeal that prevented the Diocese from forcing the school off the CTK grounds.

In February 2018, New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division denied a motion put forth by the Diocese that would have prevented MVP from enrolling new students for the 2018-19 school year.

Last month, the appellate court unanimously decided to overturn the lower court ruling that MVP could not rent space on the CTK campus. Because of this, the case could go back to the lower court to have a jury decide if CTK breached its contract with the Diocese.

CTK argued that it has become a “customary and usual practice” for charter schools to rent space in Catholic school buildings, citing that many charter schools throughout New York City rent space in Catholic schools, including one in the old Bishop Ford building a block from the Brooklyn Diocese’s headquarters.

The Diocese, however, stated that “only two other Catholic high schools in the Diocese have ever leased unused space to charter schools and those leases were with the permission and consent of the Diocese.” According to the Diocese, charter schools are prohibited from having a religious affiliation, therefore they “cannot be said to further the religious teachings or doctrines of a Roman Catholic high school.”

The Diocese also stated that Christ the King is the only Catholic High School in the Diocese that leases unused space without the permission and consent of the Diocese.

“Throughout this long and really unnecessary ordeal, we’ve remained focused on providing the best possible educational options for young people and families in the community – and a great Catholic high school in particular,” said Serphin Maltese, chairman of the Christ the King High School board of trustees. “It’s fitting that the Diocese’s payment to us for our most recent legal fees will help families pay for a Catholic education.”

Updated at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 10

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