BRONX W www.BXTimes.com EEKLY February 24, 2019 2
Development deal saves Grand Concourse church
BY PATRICK ROCCHIO
A Grand Concourse church’s
future was secured by a development
agreement for the property.
Following a long legal struggle
with the mortgage holder,
First Union Baptist Church,
established April 4, 1915 at 595
Courtlandt Avenue, will be able
to continue its mission at its current
location as affordable apartments
rise along with a brand
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new house of worship.
The project is slated to begin
later this year or early next.
Under the deal the church,
which moved into the former
synagogue building in 1977,
along with its attorneys – The
Legal Aid Society and Kasowitz
Benson and Torres, which took
the case pro bono, were able to
fend off a serious debt situation.
As part of the agreement the
church’s debt was retired by
Thorobird Companies, an affordable
housing developer, and
its land title surrendered on the
condition that residential development
and a 4,500 square
foot worship space be built, confi
rmed the church’s pastor, Rev.
Dr. James Wilson Jr.
Wilson said that the congregation
responded with “jubilation
and joy” when the news was
“We have been under a (fi -
nancial) burden for about eight
years,” said Wilson, who has
been pastor for 45 years. “(A)
heavy load that was on us has
The church has seen its share
of hardships, including a Chapter
11 bankruptcy fi ling in 2012
and the foreclosure attempt, said
This kicked off years of litigation
in both Bronx Supreme and
bankruptcy courts where lawyers
Susan Chase of the Legal
Aid Society and David Abrams
and Andrew Elkin of Kasowitz
Benson and Torres litigated on
behalf of the church.
A deal was agreed to towards
the end of 2018.
First Union’s case was taken
up by the Legal Aid Society because
of the impact it has on its
community and the need for affordable
housing, said Susan
Chase of Legal Aid.
“This is a perfect example of
collaborating to build sustainable
communities while at the
same time protecting those vital
institutions that maintained stability
during the turmoil of economic
and social unrest,” said
Abrams said it was very important
that the church congregation
stay in its current location,
especially since many
congregants are elders.
“Kasowitz Benson Torres is
extremely gratifi ed to have had
the opportunity to help save
First Union Baptist Church in
a win-win resolution that will
return the church to a sound fi -
nancial footing and also provide
housing to low-income New York
residents and their families,”
Thomas Campbell, of Thorobird
said the church approached
the company in 2015 and told
him that they were going to lose
their land if they couldn’t satisfy
Campbell, a member of the
congregation, said that he met
with the pastor to discuss the situation.
He feels churches are the
bedrock that many communities
are built on.
In most cases, Thorobird
wouldn’t usually put capital upfront
without more defi niive
plans, but they decided to do so
to save the church, said Campbell.
“Our goal is to embrace communities
and help them accomplish
their goals through real
estate, he said.
He said that the project is still
in the design stage, but he estimates
that more than 60 units of
affordable housing along with
church space can be developed
on the 6,854 square foot site.
First Union Baptist Church has been a community mainstay at 2064 Grand Concourse
since 1977. It was founded in 1915. Schneps Media / Patrick Rocchio