After two years of promises and issued (and reissued) building permits, St. Gabriel School has just one request of its neighbor, Riverstone Condominium — fix its brick façade so that the school’s kids can once again have full use of their playground.
“They had bricks falling down,” said the Rev. Brian McCarthy, pastor of St. Gabriel’s and St. Margaret of Cortona churches. “They would fall into our parking lot.”
The 13-story condo building, located at 3220 Arlington Ave., responded quickly to the problem, pulling permits to fix it, but little, if anything, has been done since.
A fence has blocked off part of the school’s playground and parking lot since 2015, making what was supposed to be “temporary” feel more and more permanent. The 100-by-200-foot space at 590 W. 235th St., was virtually cut in half.
“I’m totally disgusted,” said Denis Kitson, the facilities manager at both churches. Riverstone’s condo board told him repairs would be complete last year, and then they were told this spring.
But, as the summer construction season starts to wind down and the weather gets colder, Kitson wondered if any work at all will take place this year.
“I’m getting slack from every person in the church and even the neighborhood because the kids can’t play there on the weekends,” Kitson said. “They can’t do anything because we are afraid the bricks are going to come flying around.”
When there are big events at St. Gabriel’s like school graduation or Easter Sunday Mass, there are only have a handful of parking space available to parishioners.
“It’s been a great inconvenience many times,” McCarthy said.
The loss of space also has had an impact on the students at St. Gabriel’s.
“I just feel bad, not just for my own son,” said Frank Menard, a parishioner and parent of a 2017 graduate. “He (not only) lost out on the whole yard. But, all the kids who are there now.”
Because there’s minimal space, older students don’t have the room to play sports like football or basketball because they fear a younger classmate will be injured.
“All of their playtime is ruined now because they say you can’t play football because there is not enough space,” Menard said.
Riverstone’s board told The Riverdale Press in a statement it recently secured a loan for the repair work. The good news is that with those funds, repairs could start within the next few weeks. The bad news? It won’t be completed until the end of 2018.
Riverstone hasn’t been getting a free ride taking up some of St. Gabriel’s property, however. Philip Newman, a former Riverstone board member, said his building has paid the Archdiocese $3,000 per month for its use. Not only does the parish use the affected part property — something Kitson denies — Newman added there was enough space for St. Gabriel’s students to play.
That $3,000 monthly payment isn’t a gift to St. Gabriel’s, however, Kitson said. Instead, that was compensation both sides agreed to, as ordered by the city’s buildings department.
Additionally, the church would rather have its space back than the cash, Kitson added.
Riverstone’s first repair permit was issued in July 2015 and renewed last May. It won’t expire again until next May — short of how long the condo building says it needs to finish repairs.
“They keep telling us, ‘We’re going to start it. We’re going to start it,’ and, then, they get a delay,” McCarthy said. “It’s beyond me that it would take this long to fix this. It’s ridiculous.”