Alexanian Responds: Diocese Statement, Letter Still Leave Questions Unanswered

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To the Editor:

I am responding to Rebecca Bakalian Hachikian’s letter to the editor regarding the sale of the Diocesan air rights in last week’s Mirror-Spectator (8/18/18). She mentioned my father’s name, Yervant Alexanian, along with Haik Kavookjian and Dadour Dadourian as one of the community leaders and questions how he/they would respond to the sale/lease of Diocesan property.

As his daughter, I feel the need to respond.

I also read the long overdue report disseminated by the Diocesan Council regarding the sale/lease of the Diocesan land with great interest. Simply put there was absolutely no clarification of the so-called “misinformation” which was causing the community’s widespread, broad based backlash against “the project.” Actually, the community at large pushed back against the project based on their understanding of it. There were, however, contradictions as Ms. Hachikian states.

One of them, according to the report, was that the delegates “overwhelmingly” supported “the project” at the May delegate’s assembly but the reality is that discussion of the plan to sell the Diocese wasn’t on the agenda and was discussed at the end of the meeting when several of the delegates had already left as Ms. Hachikian stated. It’s my understanding that there’s also some confusion amongst the delegates as to what they were supporting since they weren’t given any written information about “the project”. Another contradiction, as she stated was that the sale of the land was in fact already decided upon by the Diocesan Council and the Board of Trustees and if the community hadn’t pushed back, the contract would have been signed this summer without consulting with the delegates.

Do those who are pushing “the project” to sell/lease the Diocesan land realize that the builders of a 32-story-high-rise can sell the building to Turks or Azeris or can rent/sell the apartments to the aforementioned who can wreak havoc on those Armenians attending church or working at the complex? No contract can prevent any ethnic groups from renting or buying property since there are strong laws preventing this kind of discrimination.

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According to the deal, the Diocese won’t receive 10 percent of the income from the building until the value of the apartments are at $90 per square foot. At present, according to a realtor, the value of apartments in the area of the Diocese/Cathedral is around $67 per square foot. How many years will it take to reach their target given the fact that dozens of high rises are being built on West 34th Street flooding the area with new apartments, not to mention the potential downturn in the real estate market.

Do those who are pushing this deal realize that the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, like my father(subject of the memoir Forced into Genocide) who sacrificed for decades to raise money to build St. Vartan Cathedral as a symbol of the survival of the Armenian Nation chose the block between 34th and 35th Streets so that there wouldn’t be any high rises overshadowing St. Vartan Cathedral which the proposed high rise does?

Do those who are pushing “the project” realize that not only is the Armenian community at large against it but so too is the Community Board?

Most viable organizations have  5-, 10-and even 20-year plans but evidently not our Diocese. Why didn’t the Diocesan Council realize years ago that they should plan for the future by securing the funds to make the necessary repairs to buildings that are 50+ years old that would surely need them?

Members of the Diocesan Council are willingly elected to their positions and members of the Board of Trustees are willingly appointed. The members of these Boards not only have a responsibility to help the Primate and administration run the Diocese efficiently but also have a fiduciary responsibility to honor the sacrifice and financial contributions of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and those who followed…the donors… who have contributed the money to establish and maintain the Diocese/Cathedral, to make sure that the funds are spent responsibly. Most years the Diocese was in the red. Why wasn’t a balanced budget insisted upon years ago? Why can’t the Council find an executive director with good administrative abilities?

Whenever anyone criticizes “the project” to sell/lease the Diocesan land, the response is that they should come up with an alternative plan to secure the funds to make the needed repairs…in other words, the community should again be put upon to dig down into our pockets to donate the money needed to mitigate the lack of foresight by those in charge.

A respected member of the Council already resigned because of this debacle. Despite the fact that the majority of the Armenian community at large is against the sale/lease of Diocesan land  certain members of the Diocesan Council and the Board of Trustees are still pushing it. It begs the question… WHY?

Adrienne Alexanian

New York, NY

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