St. Vartan Cathedral in New York

Request to Convene Special Session of Diocesan Assembly over Fate of St. Vartan Plaza

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A petition to convene a special session of the Diocesan Assembly of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern Diocese) is currently being circulated. The special session would give the Diocesan Council the chance to present to the Diocesan Assembly a full report on considerations and decisions taken to date regarding the sale or transfer of any portion of the Diocesan Center and development rights associated with St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral and the cathedral’s plaza. It would also give the clergy, chairpersons and delegates of the Eastern Diocese the chance to properly review and consider a proposed transaction.

Please encourage your priest, parish council chairperson and duly elected delegates to sign the petition.

During the May 2018 Diocesan Assembly, the Diocesan Council Chairman informed Diocesan Delegates that the Council had been negotiating for some time and signed a letter of intent to sell the Diocesan Center’s administrative building and development rights of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral and the cathedral’s plaza to a developer who would erect a, more or less, 33-floor, multi-use commercial and residential tower in place of the Diocesan Center. The letter of intent is dated December 18, 2017.

Diocesan Delegates, who represent the parishes, were blindsided. The planned sale was not included on the Assembly Agenda. Delegates were not informed about this matter before the Diocesan Council raised it on the floor of the Diocesan Assembly. No written information about the terms of the negotiated deal was given to delegates.

While the Diocesan Assembly gave a vote of confidence to the proposed transaction, the value of such a gesture is limited by the complete lack of opportunity given to delegates to review relevant materials and formulate an informed opinion about the NYC market, any alternative options to use or monetize development rights, whether the proposed transaction represented a viable offer for property that had been appraised at $95 million one year earlier, and the impact of the sale on Diocesan operations, parishioners, and reputation.

Following the surprise announcement of the intended sale, many members of the community, including clergy, church members, former Diocesan Council members, National Ecclesiastical Assembly Delegates, benefactors and others, have raised significant questions and concerns.

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In reaction, the Diocesan Council announced that it will convene a “public forum” to promote “mutual understanding.” This is a positive step. However, a public forum, which remains to be scheduled, has no authority over the affairs of the Eastern Diocese. It is insufficient to remedy the flawed way the proposed sale was presented to the Diocesan Assembly. A special session shall give the Diocesan Council the opportunity to present to the Diocesan Assembly a full report on considerations and decisions taken to date.

The fundraising and construction of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral and the Diocesan Center was conceived even earlier but formally launched by surviving victims of the genocide at the 1945 Diocesan Assembly. They chose the heart of NYC, only blocks from the planned United Nations, to send a message. The undertaking was meant to be, and remains, a testament to the vitality of the Armenian Church, the survival of the nation and the memory of the Holy Martyrs.

The planning and construction of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral and Diocesan Center was an impressive labor of faith that would span decades. Its future should not be relegated to that of an unannounced addendum to the agenda of a Diocesan Assembly.

 

The Petition

WHEREAS, Paragraph 58 of the Bylaws of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern Diocese) provides that special sessions of the Diocesan Assembly may be called by written request of one-third of the delegates; and

WHEREAS, the Bylaws state that the Diocesan Assembly shall exercise supervision and control over all ecclesiastical-administrative bodies within the jurisdiction of the Diocese, which authority the Diocesan Assembly reserves and may choose to exercise over the Diocesan Council and Board of Trustees regarding a proposed sale or conveyance of interest in any portion of the Diocesan Center, its underlying land, development rights of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, and development rights of the cathedral’s plaza;

NOW, THEREFORE, the delegates of the Eastern Diocese hereby respectfully request that the Primate, officers elected at the 116th Diocesan Assembly and Diocesan Council convene a special session of the Diocesan Assembly;

FURTHERMORE, the agenda of the special session of the Diocesan Assembly shall include, but not be limited to, 1) a discussion of a proposed sale or conveyance of interest of the Diocesan Center, its underlying land, development rights of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, and development rights of the cathedral’s plaza, 2) discussion of such other matters that the Diocesan Assembly may choose to consider, and 3) taking such actions that the Diocesan Assembly deems desirable or necessary;

FURTHERMORE, the special session shall convene 1) on or before Saturday, September 22, 2018 and prior to the execution of any agreements or commitments in connection with a sale or material conveyance of interest in buildings, land or development rights described herein or 2) on such other date the Primate and Diocesan Council may deem appropriate provided it is held prior to the execution of any sale or conveyance agreements or commitments. It shall be held at the Diocesan Center or an appropriate venue.

To request a special session of the Diocesan Assembly, print the above section, sign, print your name, parish and date, and scan and email to specialassembly50@gmail.com, photograph and text to 917-837-1297.

By requesting a special session of the Diocesan Assembly, you are not committing to attend.

Signed,

Hilda Adil- Delegate from Holy Martyrs Armenian Church, Bayside, NY

Ara N. Araz- Delegate from St. Leon Armenian Church, Fair Lawn, NJ

Thomas V. Ashbahian- Delegate from St. Leon Armenian Church, Fair Lawn, NJ

Sevan Aydin- Delegate from Holy Cross Church of Armenia, New York, NY

Lyle Dadian- Chairperson of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church, Greenfield, WI

Ramelann Kalagian, Chairperson of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church, Greenfield, WI

Ara Karamanian- Chairperson of St. Kevork Armenian Church, Houston, TX

Lisa Kouzoujian- Delegate from St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church, White Plains, NY

Van Z. Krikorian- Delegate from of St. Gregory the Enlightener Armenian Church, White Plains, NY

Michelle Ouzounian- Delegate from St. Mesrob Armenian Church, Racine, WI

 

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