Please Help Our Cathedral
As you all know, prior to our bishop going to prison, the Codes Department of the City of Utica posted a "Do Not Occupy" notice on the front door of the Cathedral, virtually shutting the building down. The reasons given for the alleged closure were that there is no heating system in the building and the hole in the floor where rotted floor boards and supports were removed due to water damage.
Archbishop Stephen was at the Cathedral the day Mr. Daniel Cozza, of the City of Utica Codes Department, came to the Cathedral. Mr. Cozza, who was very antagonistic and disrespectful to the Archbishop, proceeded to post the notice on the front door of the Cathedral. His Eminence advised Mr. Cozza that he would not obey the order not to occupy the building and informed him that worship services would continue in the Cathedral despite the posted order. Later that afternoon, Archbishop Stephen posted a notice on the front door next, to the City of Utica's notice, stating that the Archdiocese would not obey the order not to occupy the building and that the City of Utica was violating the congregation's right to worship. Subsequently, divine services did continue in the Cathedral right up to the week before the Archbishop was sentenced to prison for "stealing" construction services relating to the restoration of the Cathedral. Thus, the Cathedral remained in use for over a year between the time the City's notice was posted and the Archbishop was sent to prison on March 6, 2014.
It is important to note here that the Cathedral had been without heat for over twelve years and no one ever bothered us. No one in the Cathedral community ever complained; we just did what we had to do to raise the monies necessary to begin a full blown restoration program.
We are not a rich community and we inherited a lot of problems with the Cathedral that were not disclosed to us before we bought the building by the owner at the time. In addition, said individual salvaged everything he could before the Archdiocese bought the building.
With regard to the hole in the floor, we were told by several contractors and engineers that the wall which surrounds the hole more than exceeds codes safety standards. It is a solidly constructed wall and the risk of someone falling into the basement is slim to none.
Up until the time the restoration work was suspended and the general contractor became angry with the Archbishop, no one ever bothered us. We served the community and our neighbors quietly. Even as a poor parish ourselves we did a great deal for a great number of people, especially the poor and needy, over the fifteen years we have been at the Cathedral. The Cathedral has only served as a safe-haven and a place of spiritual and physical refuge for all those in need. Our doors were always; we never turned any one away, especially those needing any kind of assistance.
When the troubles began and escalated with the general contractor, the City of Utica, in the person of its representative Mr. Cozza, began to harass the Cathedral community, especially those volunteers who tried to continue service to the community and sustain the Cathedral financially while the Archbishop was in prison.
Violation after violation for uncut grass was sent to the Cathedral. Mr. Cozza personally harassed the Archbishop's mother, who has been a blessing at the Cathedral weeding, volunteering her time to staff the food pantry, clothes closet, etc., when he saw her working outside the Cathedral one day. She and her husband and a handful of others did what they could to maintain and care for the Cathedral while the Archbishop was incarcerated. Some of the things he said to the Archbishop's mother were very unprofessional; they reflected his personal opinion and should not have been uttered by someone representing the City of Utica.
We believe that Mr. Cozza had a personal relationship with the general contractor and that his aggressive and confrontational behavior as well as his harassment of the Cathedral community was the product of his alleged relationship with the general contractor. We view his actions as ones of retribution and vengeance. We hold him personally responsible for this. Mr. Cozza's behavior was first brought to the attention of Mayor Robert Palmieri by the Archbishop's mother and also by the Archbishop himself, while he was in prison. Mayor Palmieri has been unsympathetic to the plight and struggles of the Cathedral and indifferent to the concerns expressed to him regarding Mr. Cozza.
Now that the Archbishop has returned, we must take measures to resolve the outstanding bills due for the restoration work that was done. And we need to move forward in stabilizing and securing the future of the Cathedral. Thus, we are asking for your help to accomplish this. Please consider making a donation to the Cathedral Restoration Fund so that we can preserve this spiritually, historically and architecturally significant and important landmark. The restoration program will be done in phases. Phase One will be the payment of the outstanding restoration bills, which total $380,000. Phase Two will be the installation of a new roof, a new heating system and a new electrical system as well as a new floor structure in the Cathedral. The total Phase Two amount to be raised is $850,000. Phase Two will not begin until Phase One has been completed. Phase Three will include restoration and repair of all stained glass windows, repair of interior masonry walls and arches, repair, pointing and cleaning of exterior stone, etc. The estimated cost of Phase Three is $900,000. Phase Four will be the embellishment phase; the interior decoration of the church, including icons, templon, liturgical furniture, bells, etc. The budget for this phase will be on an item by item basis. That is to say, benefactors will be able to choose a specific item or items they wish to donate.
Individuals may designate their donation be used for a specific purpose within a given phase; such donations will be designated "restricted" and will NOT be used for any other purpose. It will take approximately one year to complete each phase.
Individuals donating to Phase One are advised and informed that as donations are received, funds will be disbursed to pay the restoration bills outstanding as of March 6, 2014. Also, all donors and benefactors are to understand that if they specify their donation is to be used for any other Phase, that Phase cannot commence until 1) Phase One is complete and closed out, and, 2) all funds for a specific Phase have been raised. All funds received for Phases Two, Three and Four will be kept and maintained in separate interest-bearing accounts. It must be emphasized that funds maintained in one fund account or designated. for a specific purpose will not be used or commingled with any other phase or used for any other purpose than for what it has been designated.All donors and benefactors will receive a monthly report regarding progress and activities related to the restoration. At the end of each Phase, all donors and benefactors will receive an audited financial statement and statement of activity compiled and issued by an outside accounting firm.
If you would like to make a donation to the restoration of the Cathedral, please make your check payable to:
Cathedral Restoration Fund
In your donation letter and the memo section of the check, please state clearly and distinctly what specific use you would like your donation used for. Please make sure that you write a very specific and clearly stated and detailed donation letter. Make your intentions and desires known. If your donation or bequest is in memory of someone living or deceased or is a family memorial gift, please provide that information as well.
Mail your donation letter and check to:
Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace
1101 Howard Avenue
Utica, New York 13501
Thank you for your love for and support of God's holy Church and our Cathedral.