The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre has sold its headquarters for $5.2 million in a move that was approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court, church officials said Friday.
Synergy Holding Partners LLC bought the pastoral center, which includes a five-story office building at the corner of North Park Avenue and Sunrise Highway in Rockville Centre and an adjacent parking lot for approximately 58 cars, said Sean Dolan, a diocesan spokesman.
The diocese, home to 1.4 million Catholics in the Long Island region, declared bankruptcy in October as it faced more than 200 lawsuits under New York State’s Child Victims Act. It became the largest diocese in the United States to declare bankruptcy.
The law opened a window for alleged childhood victims of sexual abuse by clergy or anyone else including teachers, Scout leaders or even relatives, regardless of how long ago the abuse is said to have occurred.
“The Diocese and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors have agreed that all proceeds from the sale will be used exclusively to compensate creditors,” Dolan said in a statement. He did not say specifically whether that meant the money would go toward CVA cases.
Diocesan officials including Bishop John Barres will continue to work out of the building until Aug. 31. The pastoral center, or “chancery,” is where top diocesan officials have their offices, including the head of the Catholic school system.
Former Bishop William Murphy once described how, days after his installation, he could see the Twin Towers burning on Sept. 11, 2001, from his fifth-floor office.
Synergy Holding Partners could not be reached for comment.
Dolan said diocesan operations should not be affected by the sale, and that the church decided to sell it mainly because the diocese “does not currently use all the available space in the building and plans to relocate to offices that are better suited to its needs and a better use of its resources.”
The diocese chose to sell in 2018 after concluding it was no longer cost-effective, he said. The building is located about two blocks from St. Agnes Cathedral, the spiritual seat of the diocese, and next to the Long Island Rail Road Rockville Centre station.
He said the diocese has not yet finalized what will be the location of its new headquarters, though the move could involve various locations for different ministries and functions.
“The sale and our relocation will have no effect on our ministry. In fact, the operating efficiencies that will result are expected to free resources that can be directed to those with the greatest need,” said the Rev. Eric Fasano, vicar general, Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Frank Russo, a longtime Catholic from Port Washington, lamented the diocese finds itself in such straits.
“I’m just sad to hear they had to sell it but I think it is probably to pay off these damages,” Russo said. “The problem is a horrible problem” and one that has impacted other institutions including schools, Scouts and colleges.
The diocese has also decided to close seven of its grammar schools in the last year because of declining enrollment and revenue, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.