CARS HOMES JOBS

Owners of gutted Gloversville church face trial

City to propose fines for removal of windows without approval

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
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— After four court adjournments to allow for a negotiated settlement that city officials said never developed, the owners of the gutted Bleecker Square Church will be summoned to a City Court trial set for July 26.

City Attorney Anthony Casale said he expects the proceeding will take less than an hour.

He said he will ask that the Church of God of Prophecy, a Tennessee-based denomination with an office in Albany, pay thousands of dollars in fines for removing all the stained glass windows and the two steeple clocks without first gaining approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board. The 1886 building lies in the downtown historic district.

The fines could extend back to early February, when city Building Inspector D. Robert Robbins issued five citations for violating the historic district zoning code.

The tickets are subject to fines of up to $50 per day each.

In June, church officials presented the review board with what city officials said was a vague plan to replace the stained glass with clear glass. The board offered the church time to submit specific details, but Robbins said no information was presented to the city by Friday’s deadline.

As a result, he said, the board has canceled the July 21 meeting that would have been devoted to the church proposal.

“I think the ship has sailed,” Casale said Monday on the possibility of negotiations continuing.

Casale said he will ask the court to levy “substantial fines. It’s totally warranted under the circumstances,” he said.

Robbins — who Casale said he will call as his first witness at next week’s trial — said the plan submitted by the church in June “was extremely lacking in detail. There were no specifics.”

No one from the church has contacted either Casale or Robbins since the deadline passed.

“I don’t know why they haven’t submitted additional details,” Robbins said.

The board asked for such detail as type and thickness of the glass proposed and a work schedule.

The church was built in 1868 and owned by the United Presbyterian denomination until about 10 years ago when it was sold to the new denomination.

Antiques dealer Robert Meringolo, whose company removed the windows and filled the openings with fiber board, has defended the salvage operation.

In emails to Mayor Dayton King he spoke of the danger of leaving the windows in place to be damaged by vandals and he characterized their removal as an effort to preserve art.

Meringolo also made it clear the windows will not be returned. “We will do everything possible to resolve the issue short of returning the windows,” he said in an email to King.

Meringolo could not be reached Monday for comment.

 
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