Tag Archives: church

Nearly $7,000 in cash stolen from Maspeth church


| lguerre@queenscourier.com


A perpetrator stole nearly $7,000 in cash from Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth, cops said.

The money was taken from a car in front the church near 56th Road. The suspect took $6,900 in cash and $1,300 in checks, according to police.

The vehicle was being fixed at the time of the crime, and upon further investigation police learned that the money inside belonged to the church, authorities said.

If you have any information relating to the above incident please contact the 104th Precinct Detective Squad (718) 386-3004.

The church declined to comment.

 

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Flushing church’s act of kindness backfires


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Melissa Chan

Leaders of a local Christian church are bemoaning an act of kindness after spending $2,000 in legal fees and close to two years to try to evict a pair of stubborn squatters they say have no plans to leave.

The Queensboro Hill Community Church of Flushing opened its doors to two homeless women and their dog a year-and-a-half ago when church officials found the down-on-their-luck duo sleeping on a mat in a 4×8 room in the basement, said Joe Illigasch, who has close ties with the church.

The pair, Illigasch said, promised they only needed a short amount of time to get back on their feet. But five months later, it was clear to the congregation the mooching mates had no plans to hit the road, Illigasch said.

Illigasch, 70, said he went to the police, who told him the church could not legally boot the ladies after housing them for more than 30 days. The church, he said, then hired a lawyer who said the unwelcome, non-rent paying tenants might not have to leave until an agreement is reached between them, the church and housing courts on a mutually agreed upon date.

“We gave them money. We fed them. We encouraged them,” Illigasch said. “In the beginning, the pastor kept saying [turning them out] isn’t the Christian way. You have to give them time. You try to be a good person and follow the law, but the law is just not written properly. Common sense doesn’t prevail.”

The twosome, Judy B. and Mary M. — who did not want their last names published — said they never wanted to take advantage of the church.

“It’s not that we want to stay here any longer than we have to. We’re sleeping in a room on the floor. When I have to get up in the middle of the night, I honestly have to wiggle across the stage on a pillow because I can’t get up myself,” said Judy, 64. “I understand they’re mad, but we have no place to go.”

Judy, who relies on Social Security disability funds, said she’s tied down by medical bills for recent eye surgery and ailments stemming from old age, including arthritis in her knees. She also refuses to part with her 11-year-old unofficial service dog.

“I’m willing to go live on the street. It’s not a situation where we’re trying to use them,” Judy said. “I don’t know if they understand what it’s like. Why would somebody want to stay here like this?”

Mary, 54, who had a job cleaning the church but is currently unemployed, said she saw the house of worship as a “sanctuary” and attributed bad credit ratings to why the two could not find another living situation. The pair, who have been roommates for two decades, had owed an undisclosed amount of money to former landlords in the past but reached negotiations in court for the payments, Mary said.

“I know it is killing both sides,” she said. “I’m moving heaven and earth to get out of here.”

The two women have until Friday, August 3 to move out, according to an order by a Queens County Housing Court judge.

“It’s incredible what they’ve done to us,” Illigasch said. “That church will never let anybody in again.”

St. Saviour’s needs new storage space


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Bob Holden

A historic Maspeth church needs salvation to avoid damnation.

St. Saviour’s has been warehoused for the past few years by Galasso Trucking, which donated space and trailers when the 165-year-old church, which had been deconstructed, needed to be stored.

The Maspeth trucking company now needs the space back.

“They’ve been great, more than great,” said Bob Holden, president on the Juniper Park Civic Association and advocate for St. Saviour’s. “They’ve done this for three years. We thought it would only be a few months.”

Without a space to store the church, one of the oldest buildings in Queens may be lost, a situation Holden said would be tragic.

One plan has the church being moved to a plot of land at All Faiths Cemetery, but the area needs to be cleared and leveled — which will cost about $45,000 and another $40,000 to build a garage.

Grants totaling $150,000 from Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and former state Senator Serphin Maltese were secured for moving the church, though the money is still being held by the state. Hevesi and Senator Joe Addabbo are working to get the funds released, Holden said.

Until the money is released, little can be done.

“We have the land and the grants, we just need the cash,” Holden said.

Holden bemoaned the fact that Maspeth, the oldest settlement on Long Island, lacks any landmarks. The church was designed by architect Richard Upjohn, who also designed Trinity Church in Manhattan, in the Carpenter Gothic-style.

Built in 1847, St. Saviour’s closed in 1995 due to a dwindling congregation. For more than a decade the church continued to stand on Maspeth Hill before facing demolition in 2008.

The church was literally minutes away from being demolished when a deal was worked out that gave the Juniper Park Civic Association 30 days to deconstruct the building and get it off the property. It took them 40 days to take down the church and store it in carefully-labeled sections.

“We’ve come this far and saved a piece of Maspeth and Queens history,” said Holden. “We’ll keep fighting.”

Poor box pilferer pinched


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Thou shalt not steal.

One man’s sinful behavior landed him in some hot water when a parish priest caught him trying to pilfer the poor box.

On Christmas Eve, 2011, Reverend Father Francis Colamaria, overseer of Holy Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, heard loud scraping noises coming from inside the house of worship. Upon investigation, Colamaria discovered Joseph Azzurro standing adjacent to a collection box. When the intruder saw Colamaria, he fell to his knees, saying “Bless me Father for I have sinned.”

Colamaria observed Azzurro carrying a backpack, inside of which he saw a bent wire hanger. Prior to the incident, several bent wire hangers had been retrieved throughout the church.

According to the district attorney, Colamaria recognized the individual and had frequently seen him in close proximity to the poor boxes, often during weekends and religious holidays, when donation amounts generally spike.

Azzurro was arrested on February 23. He has since been released without bail.

The charges against Azzurro include possession of burglar’s tools, criminal mischief in the fourth degree and attempted petit larceny.

According to the DA, Colamaria said that he noticed weekly shortages among the church’s eight donation boxes averaging $100 between the months of May and December, 2011. Colamaria also claimed that several of the boxes appeared to have been tampered with, including one with a broken lock.

In 2000, Azzurro violated three times an order of protection that had been set against him by Nativity Roman Catholic Church after he attempted to steal money from a collection box there. These actions earned Azzurro a prison sentence of one-and-a-half to three years. Azzurro was pinched yet again in 2002 for burglary at St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church and served more prison time.

Maspeth church vandalized


| brennison@queenscourier.com


Vandals defaced a Maspeth church recently in what is being investigated as a hate crime.

Trinity-St. Andrews Lutheran Church on 60th Avenue was found vandalized on Wednesday, February 29 when the church’s pastor, Terrence Weber, arrived at the religious institution.

“As I was coming to the church’s office door I noticed a Star of David and in the star was a swastika,” the pastor said. “People being what they are today I knew exactly what it was.”

Weber circled the church and parish house searching for more signs of defacement. He discovered a Star of David with the words “Christ” and “Thor,” the tag “UG” with a bomb and a “pornographic scene” scrawled on the house of worship.

Police said they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

“We are an aging congregation,” said Weber, who has been with the church for 18 years. “In my own mind there is no kind of vendetta people would have against us.”

Assemblymember Rory Lancman recently announced legislation that would provide greater protection to houses of worship.

The bill would increase the penalty for any damage to a religious institution from one year to a maximum of four years in prison.

Trinity-St. Andrews has been a pillar of the community since 1899.

This is the first time the church has had to deal with this kind of act, Weber said, adding that the church has a very good relationship with the community.

“Parishioners were numb [to the graffiti] because nothing in this day and age is sacred. It is a sign of the times,” Weber said. “It’s always somebody else, but when it comes to your backyard, you say, ‘I can’t believe it’s right here.’”

No arrests have been made. Repeated calls to the 104th Precinct went unanswered as of press time.