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NYC public housing authority pulls Christmas Pearl Harbor on religious groups

Over the Christmas holidays, several local directors of facilities of the New York City Housing Authority notified religious groups, mostly Christian churches, that they could no longer rent community rooms and other facilities. NYCHA officials gave little or no warning of the change of policy and did most of their communicating with the religious groups [...]

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Over the Christmas holidays, several local directors of facilities of the New York City Housing Authority notified religious groups, mostly Christian churches, that they could no longer rent community rooms and other facilities. NYCHA officials gave little or no warning of the change of policy and did most of their communicating with the religious groups through word of mouth or email. One church, Open Door Fellowship of East Harlem, was given notice on December 29th which was two days before their January renewal, leaving the pastor to a scramble to find space for their annual Baptism service.

Their sudden ouster with no hearing process about the change of policy left religious leaders angry. This morning they protested outside the NYC Department of Law at 100 Church Street. A Journey received a call describing the situation, “This is Pastor Devlin [of Manhattan Bible Church] in the back of a police van.  We've been arrested.  There are 7 arrested.”  Pastors Dimas Salaberrios of Infinity Church, Pastor Michael Carrion of Promiseland Covenant Church, City Councilman Fernando Cabrera and three others were also arrested.

Right after the United States Supreme Court declined on December 5th to consider a lower court’s ban of religious groups renting space for worship services in public schools during the off-hours, some local NYCHA directors asked their bosses if the court decision meant that religious groups also can’t meet in the NYCHA rooms set aside for community groups’ usage.  One director of a Manhattan community center at a public housing project sent the administrator of Manhattan Borough Community Operations a copy of the newspaper article about the case. The implied question was, what should I do? The administrator emailed back, “NYCHA will not be able to rent to Churches based on a recent circumstance. Our Apologies.”

Other pastors in other boroughs report similar notices. One local NYCHA community center director admitted that NYCHA was still formulating policy, but that she didn’t want the church to meet in her facility in the meantime. She gave the church twelve days notice. The relations between the Bronx River Community Center and the church had long been amicable and steady. Stunned , Pastor Dimas of Infinity Church swooned with heart pains. He recounted that he was taken to the emergency room at Sloan-Kettering Hospital. Fortunately, the doctor determined that he only had stress pains. The local administrator extended the deadline.

NYCHA top leaders deny that there has been any change of policy. One official argued that how could there be a change of policy because “the New York City Housing Authority has no formal policy in place for how its spaces can be used…and therefore none to be changed.”

The housing authority also denies that any religious group would be required to leave until a new policy is put into place. Sheila Stainback, a Communications Officer for NYCHA, issued a formal statement last night in response to A Journey’s enquires that states as the policy is being formulated,  “Meantime, NYCHA has allowed current facility uses to continue under our short-term lease agreement.”

NYCHA officials point out that all groups have only short-term, often month-by-month, lease agreements with outside groups. However, there is some confusion in their terminology which has left pastors with the impression that they have leases. Several pastors contacted by A Journey say that they have lease agreements. However, NYCHA makes a distinction: “The New York City Housing Authority does not have ‘leases’ in any of these cases, and therefore there is absolutely no landlord tenant arrangement. Rather, NYCHA issues temporary applications for short-term facility uses. However, NYCHA also calls “these “applications” by the name of “short-term lease agreement.”

Today, NYCHA seems to be backtracking on its stealth ouster of the churches. After the arrests of several protesting pastors in front of the NYC Department of Law, Pastor John Acevedo of the Open Door Fellowship received word that his church could hold their baptismal service in the Dewitt-Clinton Community Center in East Harlem after all. A NYCHA official told A Journey that NYCHA’s Board will establish their new policy “in the coming of weeks.” We will see if NYCHA will give religious groups a valentine or a raspberry in February.

 

With additional reporting by Melissa Kimiadi.

54 Responses to “NYC public housing authority pulls Christmas Pearl Harbor on religious groups” Leave a reply ›

  • Will do

  • Will link it

  • If "first in New York, then in the rest of the country" holds true, then these developments are even more troubling for the faith-environment of the U.S. We in Chicago are paying close attention. Thank you for reporting on this.

  • Today we are seeing the first indication that the churches in New York City, and nationally, are awakening. Together, we will fight these restrictive laws that discriminate against hundreds of thousands of Church-goers. We are getting the perception that we have an anti-religion mayor. I have never been arrested for anything before.

  • Thanks.

    Doesn't it seem incongruous that churches are now not allowed to meet in Bronx River Houses Community Center where Afrika Bambaata hosted some of the first Hip-Hop parties and founded the Universal Zulu Nation with the slogan "The Oneness of The Supreme Force"?

  • Do you know if the law firms that work on this sort of thing have been contacted????

    This is beginning to look like a conscerted, maybe even conspiracy???, attack. Very wierd !!!!

  • Some pastors met with religious liberty lawyers this morning.

    Some wonder if policy is to scrub city-owned public spaces of any sign of religion: first public schools; then taking down holiday decorations from Staten Island Ferry station; and now public housing. Is there a fear of too much religion in the city? So, what is Mayor Bloomberg doing?

  • Great article. What is happening is appalling.

  • Thanks. It seems such an undermining of our social fabric of toleration here. Hurts.

  • It was an honor to stand with my brothers in prayer! We shall overcome!

  • Great reporting.

  • There are signs all around that "the tables have turned". Atheists are angry of course. There are also academic and journalist allies like David Brook and Nicholas Kristof able to convey the message into as many domanins as possible.

    See "What are the uses of religion" by the Social Science Research Council.

    Raising issues central to post-secularism, Ryan Gillespie reviews three distinct recent works—Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution, and Jürgen Habermas’ Between Naturalism and Religion—in the International Journal of Communication. According to Gillespie, the books are all part of the discussion on the failures of modernity and the important roles for religion to play in the public sphere as citizens deliberate (and perhaps fight for) their future.

    http://blogs.ssrc.org/.../what-are-the-uses-of-religion/

  • thx for making us aware of the sit. will be praying.

  • We will be praying!

  • This is for the sake of the gospel. Like Paul we should rejoice, and we should pray that God's Word will be multiplied ... because a few have suffered for the sake of the Gospel... perhaps others will be more bold in sharing their faith because of you all.

  • We have to stand for the sake of Christ remember United we stand

  • Please pray for Dimas Salaberrios and all of these pastors and their families!

  • This article about Pastors Arrested in NYC yesterday has had 45,000 hits in 24 hours. Read it please

  • Like it!

  • Thank you-great work. FB readers, please viral this article by Melissa....thnx PB Fri 11:20pm

  • This article about Pastors Arrested in NYC yesterday has had 45,000 hits in 24 hours. Read it please. 11:05

  • I like this.

  • Thanks.

  • Like

  • Can you say Occupy??? It is amazing the bias ...but not surprising. Thank you to all those that stood strong.

  • Like this article

  • Bronx River needs the church!!!

  • We need to be prepared for the inevitable. The Lord warned us that this (and much more) would begin to happen. Stay in the WORD. That and that alone will be the anchor in the storm.

  • If you're a Christian in New York and Long Island, you likely know someone whose church is being needlessly tossed out in the street. The Lord is bigger than the NYC school board.

  • Okay!

  • This website is timely for moments like this in New York City. Thank you for writing such an eye opening article.

  • I want to thank Pastor Dimas for his efforts and activism in leading the charge last Thursday against injustice.

    I also want to thank all the men and women who braved the freezing temperatures to protest what the city is doing to the church. A special thanks to Pastor and City Council member, Fernando Cabrera for putting all on the line including your political capital and joining in this protest and civil disobedience. We need more politicians and men of God like you. Thank you Pastor Carrion and Pastor Devlin for joining with us, even though your churches have a home and are not directly affected. We need more like you. I thank all of you gentleman as well as the 3 laymen who stood on behalf of those of us who have congregations that meet at schools and housing facilities. You would not yield to political correctness, refused to bow to this injustice and got arrested. You men didn’t just pray and talk; you led. And there are many that will follow. We give thanks to God for you.

    Time magazines person of the year for 2011 was the "protester". "No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world."

    I believe we are at a time where we must take a stand and raise our voices. The church should rise up and be a force to be reckoned with. We have allowed the enemy to co-opt freedom of expression as well as silence our voices, because we have a sense of piety that is afraid to offend. Could it be that because the church by and large stood idly by, remained silent so as to maintain a “Godly Testimony” and “simply prayed and remained peaceful” without any public action and pubic outcry that prayer and Bible reading in schools ceased and abortion became the norm in this country? I remember the efforts of groups like Operation Rescue, who were motivated by desperation to save lives, were marginalized by both the church and the world and considered a fringe group because of their tactics.

    We have many Biblical modern day, models to follow when it comes to civil disobedience, raising our voices and speaking to the powers that be. From Moses declaring to Pharaoh "let my people go", to the invasion of Jericho, Nehemiah and the re-building of the wall, prepared for battle, with one hand on a sword and the other with their tool, because they were on a mission to fulfill God's purpose and they were not going to be deterred. When we consider Jesus and all His confrontations and ultimate death, to the disciples and there witness that was turning the world upside down and their courage to stand and “Speak” and “DO” what they knew was true, always at the risk of peril, why should we be so non-confrontational. We are at a time in our history where more action and less talk are effective. People are tired of hearing from the politicians who make promises that they don’t keep, the business person that is all about themselves, the educators who take pride in tolerance yet do not allow dissenting voices to express themselves and the preachers who preach faith, and challenge their people to make a difference but are afraid to take the lead.

    What I saw last Thursday were believers who chose to take a stand, raise their voices and speak truth to power, challenging the authorities to do the right thing and staking their claim to what is rightfully theirs as tax paying citizens of the US and NYC. There was a small representation of the body of Christ, but one that was willing to pay the price. And while protests have a tendency to incite violence and hateful speech, a protest by believers has the intrinsic ability to be forceful and expressive, all while being respectful, meaningful and and representative of the church rising up with one voice to change our culture. We can build on last Thursday’s protest if the NYC church shows up. We need to take action to go along with our prayer. Let us redeem the protest and make our voices heard.

    This is a call to all our churches and congregations to join us for a Prayer Rally that will make a difference in our city. Especially to those pastors and congregations that meet in the schools, if at all possible, can you put all else aside and add your voice and presence to ours? Let us present a massive and unified voice.

    NEW PRAYER RALLY LOCATION: Morris High School 1100 Boston Road Bronx NY @ The Mayors City Speech on Thursday @ 12:30

  • Thanks!

  • Like this article.

  • Also like it

  • Thanks.

  • WE MUST FIGHT FOR THE COMMUNITY THAT IS BEING HELD TOGETHER BY CHURCHES AND THE FAITH OF OUR BELIEFS I REMEMBER WHEN THE SOUTH BRONX WAS BURNED DOWN IT WAS THE CHURCHES THAT HELD THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER SO WE ALL STAND FOR JUSTICES AND KEEPING THE COMMUNITY INTACT PRAISE GOD I WILL JOIN AND FAST

  • I like this.

  • Thumbs up!

  • Like this.

  • NO WAY JESUS WONT GO AMEN

  • Good!

  • Great

  • Support this.

  • Also read "Pastors Protest School Worship Ban" in "Urban Faith"

  • You can fight City Hall. NYC Pastors take a prophetic stand against efforts to ban church use of NYC Housing Authority space.

  • Your site has reposted an article about churches that use community centers of the New York City Housing Authority for worship. FYI, here’s our official statement:

    “The New York City Housing Authority is not evicting any of the church organizations from our property. These organizations have been using NYCHA space under short-term agreements that have expired according to their terms. We have offered each of the 5 churches an extension to remain at NYCHA facilities, and 4 of the 5 have signed an extension agreement (see list below). For almost a year, NYCHA has been reviewing the terms under which it rents its space to all organizations.”

    Here are the five churches; the East Harlem organization has decided not to ask for an extension:

    The House of the Lord Ministries/Bronx
    Infinity Church/Bronx
    Bronx Bible Church

    Open Door Fellowship of East Harlem
    Sunday Faluyi Congregation/Queens

  • This article really started a discussion in our circle.

  • I just like the valuable insights and objective reporting.

  • What a great website you have here.

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