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Church Issued Stop Work Order for Late Night Work, Lack of Permit

It seems that the diocese is eager to put through the sale of the former St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary at 213 East 83rd Street (between Second and Third avenues). As East Side Feed reported in April, Brooklyn developer Robert Saffayeh is in contract to purchase the building for $11.8 million.

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According to the parish website, St. Elizabeth’s was founded by Slovakian immigrants in 1891, initially opening on the Lower East Side before moving to Yorkville in 1917. After the Slovak population declined, it was designated as a parish to serve the deaf community in 1980. This unique position is what lead parishioners to fight for the church to stay open when Cardinal Dolan decreed it would merge with two other parishes in the neighborhood (St. Stephen’s of Hungary and St. Monica’s) in 2104.

These movements were unsuccessful and the church closed in 2017 and has been vacant since. Despite ongoing litigation with the diocese, the building is under contract with Saffayeh Development, although the sale has not yet been completed.

The New York Post reports that on the night of May 29, several neighbors called 311 to report work in the church after sundown. One neighbor the Post spoke to was Kalman Chany, a longtime parishioner of St Elizabeth’s and former member of the parish board of trustees. Chany filed an appeal with the Vatican to preserve the church when the merger was announced. According to the Post, Chany “and others in the neighborhood noticed workers removing items, including religious artifacts, from the shuttered church.”

Department of Buildings spokesperson Andrew Rudansky confirmed to the Post that workers were “removing construction debris from the site with the use of construction vehicles.” He also confirmed that there were no permits issued for the property. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, told The Post that there was no demolition at the time of the complaints, only “the removal of items of liturgical, historical, and monetary value for storage for future use.” The parish was fined $7,500, which was paid, and issued a stop work order.

The building on 83rd Street is now missing the large stained-glass windows that sat above the church doors and several DOB notices are plastered outside. One is the stop work order from May 29; the other two are from later dates showing attempts by the DOB to complete inspections when they were unable to enter the property.


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