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Posted 09 Jan 2002   For week ended December 28, 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 08Jan02
By Kent Larsen
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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 $100,000.

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


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