LDS Planned NYC Purchase Tied Up in Lawsuit
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- The planned purchase of a New York City convent
by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints has been tied up in a lawsuit by developers who had also
planned to buy the property. The developers, Jeffrey Levein and David
Stein, say that the Archdiocese of New York verbally agreed to sell
St. Zita's Villa, located at 141-43 West 14th Street and through the
block at 144 West 15th Street, but had not yet signed a purchase
contract. Instead Levein and Stein were told in June by Sister
Bernadette Kenny that the convent was being sold to the LDS Church.
Levein and Stein want to build a 60,000-square-foot apartment
building on the site and negotiated with Sister Kenny, a four-foot
nun who is also the convent's lawyer, over several months to purchase
the convent. According to the developers, Sister Kenny repeatedly
told them that the deal was on, and that they could continue their
pre-construction preparations, which ended up costing in excess of
The developers negotiated the details of a contract for the sale of
the convent for $10.1 million, signed the contract, and delivered it
to Sister Kenny, along with a $100,000 deposit, for the approval and
signature of the Archdiocese. But the contract was never signed.
Instead, seven weeks after the convent received the contract and
deposit, Sister Kenny told Levein and Stein that the LDS Church was
buying the buildings. She told the New York Post that New York State
law doesn't recognize verbal representations as binding, "There was
no contract signed, and the Mormon Church made an offer and the
sisters decided to go with that," she says.
The developers say that Sister Kenny explained that the order hoped
to preserve the building's stained glass windows by selling the
convent to the LDS Church. But Levein and Stein's lawyer, Andrew
Albstein, says the nuns weren't concerned enough about the windows to
bring them up in negotiations with his clients, "The [developers]
never said they wouldn't maintain the windows," Albstein maintains.
An LDS Church spokesman isn't sure what will happen to the windows,
saying that although "they are very beautiful," it is "uncertain
whether or not they can be left there." He refused to say how much
the Church is paying for the property or comment on the lawsuit,
which doesn't name the LDS Church.
The Church plans to remodel the property for use as a chapel for at
least two of the twelve congregations that meet on Manhattan,
including a relatively new Chinese-speaking branch and a family ward.
The building will also relieve some of the pressure on the Church's
27-year-old Lincoln Square building, the stake center for the
fast-growing New York New York Stake. That building currently serves
eight congregations in its two chapels. The stake also meets in two
other buildings on Manhattan, including one in Harlem that the Church
plans to replace with a new building.
Catholic Order: 'Nun of the Above' to Developer's Plans
New York NY Post 26Dec01 D1
By Lois Weiss