Olive Hill Part I: Church And Developer Go To Court Over Affordable Housing

Mount Olive Baptist Church, located at 43 High St., Manhasset, is a predominantly African American church. (Photo by Marco Schaden)

Mount Olive Baptist Church and Georgica Green Ventures (GG) signed a contract on Nov. 19, 2012 for 72 units of affordable senior livable on the church’s 3.1 acres adjacent to Community Drive and High Street. Almost seven years after the fact, they met in a Brooklyn Appellate courtroom on Nov. 8 of this year.

The original terms of the deal were $600,000 at closing and $1.4 million of a purchase back mortgage that would be paid to the church monthly for 45 years. An appraisal by the church had the property priced at $3.025 million, however, due to environmental concerns because of contaminants in the soil the value fell to $1.525 million.

GG was able to get the property in the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program on Oct. 7, 2014. The cleanup program would be able to eliminate the hazardous conditions that would have made the property unlivable.

Around the same time, GG, who is partners with the North Hempstead Housing Authority for this project, filed a rezoning application with the Town of North Hempstead for senior living. The zoning change was accepted by the board.

According to state law, a religious entity that is selling part of its property must get approval of the contract from the state attorney general and the courts. The attorney general approved the contract on Feb. 12, 2016, but the court system decided otherwise.
On March 14, 2016 Judge Jerome Murphy of the Nassau Supreme Court declined to accept the contract between Mt. Olive Baptist Church and GG. He stated that the “$1.4 million is loosely secured” and “The church is not a bank, rather it is a nonprofit religious corporation and should not be making loans and be put at risk of receiving less than fair market value for its property.”

Murphy went on to state that he was “troubled” that only one appraisal was done for the property. After the denial, GG proceeded to give the church $3,000 to do another appraisal. The church never did a second appraisal that was brought forth to Judge Murphy.

The contract was revised by the two parties on Dec. 6, 2017, Jan. 22, 2018 and Feb. 13, 2018. The last revised contract has a guaranteed payment at closing of $1.2 million, a purchase back mortgage of $800,000 and $200,000 payable when the attorney general and courts approve the contract.

“We opted for that option of getting a stipend every month,” Mount Olive Baptist Church Reverend Edward Corley said. “I just don’t think the original builders acted in good faith. We’re not going to let anybody just steal our property.”

GG filed suit against the church on July 11, 2018 for breaking the terms of the contract.
“The judge is assuming that this property is zoned for 72 units,” David Gallo said, president of GG. “If you look at the petition, it never mentions affordable housing, never mentions Georgica Green Ventures and North Hempstead Housing Authority rezoned the property. Had I walked in later on after the rezoning and the church decided to rezone it on their own behalf and spend half a million dollars, then that would be the value of their property.”

The suit was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Nassau County and GG appealed the decision, leading to the court date of Nov. 8 in the appellate division of the court system.

“There is a couple developers just waiting to see what the court is going to do,” Corley said.

Corley has plans for the influx of money from a deal by GG or another developer. The church currently has a little more than $7,000 on-hand, but no liabilities to speak of, according to court documents. The church also recently did an appraisal, dated Aug. 19, 2019, valuing the property at $6.48 million, but it does not take into account any of the environmental concerns or the rezoning that was done before the contract was signed in 2012, and has not been submitted to the court.

“There are a lot of things to do,” Corley said. “One of the things is move the church to the corner because the church is not visible right now. That would be my biggest dream come true. We got to do our parking lots and about $200,000 to $300,000 will be spent on the church.”

Gallo on the other hand is looking at losing out on several hundreds of thousands of dollars that he has already poured into the project.

“I so firmly believe that what has happened is wrong,” Gallo said. “We worked on that rezoning and we were successful. I just want to develop the project that I always intended and promised this community.”

Part two and three of this series will take a deeper look into the ongoing dealings with Mount Olive Baptist Church and GG over the last seven years.

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