Not once since early February, when they asked the Gloversville Historic District Review Board for permission to remove stained-glass windows and steeple clocks from the vacant Bleecker Street Church building, have people representing the Church of the God of Prophecy acted in good faith. Yet on Tuesday, Gloversville City Court Judge Vincent DeSantis bought their story about getting a professional engineering study done at the church, and delayed their trial for a fifth time — not just for the two weeks until the study is supposedly going to be finished, but until Sept. 13! With fall just around the corner at that point, this is an alarming development.
The church blatantly disregarded the city’s historic district law — and the review board’s explicit warning — when it stripped the 143-year-old building of its most valuable and historically significant elements over the weekend of Feb. 5. An auctioneer representing the church gave a lame, almost laughable defense, that it was his “moral imperative” to remove the windows to save them from vandals, and the church has since offered to replace the stained-glass panes with regular glass. The review board has properly resisted — allowing such a swap would make a mockery of the law and render the building far less attractive or marketable — and the church, which has presumably sold the windows, insists there’s no way to return them.
So what’s an engineering study supposed to prove, anyway? And if the church was intending to make proper amends for its misdeed, why did it ignore the city’s deadline for negotiating a settlement?
Regardless of any study, DeSantis should have let the trial get under way, because regardless of any remedies that are proposed, they shouldn’t be allowed to erase the church’s culpability in removing the artifacts, for which it must be held accountable. There’s also the issue of the building’s structural soundness: If the issues aren’t dealt with properly before winter sets in, it could hasten the building’s deterioration of the building, causing it to be demolished rather than restored.