By Mark Hallum
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled that the Brooklyn-Queens Diocese will have to pay more than $10,000 in legal fees to Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village after a years-long suit against the charter school for renting out space on the campus.
Christ the King, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave., was renting land turned over to it from the diocese under a 1976 contract that stated the parcel would always be used as a high school, or be turned back over to the church.
The diocese first took legal action against the Catholic charter school in 2013 when Queens County Supreme Court’s Marguerite Grays ruled in favor of the church in March 2017 that the school was in breach of its contract, court documents said.
This ruling has now been overturned by the state court of appeals and it will need to go back to Queens County Supreme Court, according to court documents.
“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, the chairman of the Board for Christ the King. “It’s fitting that the Diocese’s payment to us for our most recent legal fees will help families pay for a Catholic education.”
The school rented the space to Christ the King Continuing Education, Inc., which used the space as a daycare center and to operate other education programs, according to court documents.
“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. Charter schools are prohibited from any religious teaching or affiliation and, therefore, cannot be said to further the religious teachings or doctrines of a Roman Catholic high school,” a statement from the diocese said.
Christ the King is now saying the $10,400 they receive from the diocese will go toward funding scholarships, a press release from the school said.
Christ the King first opened in 1962 and closed a year later, only to open once again as a charter school separate from the diocese, while still providing a Catholic education.
The contract between the school and the diocese stated the parcel of land would be Christ the King’s “to have and to hold the same so long as [Christ the King] continues the operation of a Roman Catholic high school upon the premises… upon the cessatian of which all rights, title and interest herein conveyed shall revert to the [Diocese].”
The state Court of Appeals found the language in the contract ambiguous, as the high school still operated on the grounds and that other parcels of land under similar contracts with the Brooklyn Diocese were also being rented out, according to the court documents.
Christ the King argued that the rental of buildings owned by Catholic schools is now commonplace and used space rented in the Bishop Ford building in Brooklyn, a block away from the diocese’s headquarters, as an example of this.
The Brooklyn Diocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall