“Oh God, we come praying to you right now to ask that you help to save 240 and the services to our community,” the Church of The Open Door’s Rev. Dr. Mark V.C. Taylor professed before a small crowd in front of the Navy Yard Madison Boys & Girls Club at 240 Nassau Street in Brooklyn.
The crowd had come out to attend a rally called by the church and the newly formed Fort Greene Farragut Coalition. They came together to protest the imminent closure of the clubhouse, long a staple in the community.
“God, we know that nothing is impossible to you. God, we know that nothing is too hard for you. God, we know that you do the unseen and the unknown, so we ask you to bless our effort here today. Thank you, Lord, for these people who have come because we see the beauty and the love in our community. Thank you, Lord, for these people who have come, who refuse to be silent when things are taken away.”
The Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Foundation, the not-for-profit that owns and operates the Navy Yard Clubhouse, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to close the clubhouse by June 27. It’s a result of hundreds of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed under the New York State Child Victims Act (CVA) against a former Foundation volunteer; claims were that the volunteer abused children beginning in the year 1948 and continued doing so up until 1984.
RELATED: Brooklyn parents rally against Navy Yard Clubhouse closing
So far, the Foundation claims to already have spent $22 million in litigation on the case. It filed for Chapter 11 restructuring in June of 2022 to save itself. To finally settle the claims, the Foundation says it found it could get the most money from selling the clubhouse. The building could be sold for between $15 to $25 million.
But this means nearly 100 school-age children in Downtown Brooklyn will be left without needed extracurricular services. There is word that some other not-for-profit groups have promised to step in with after-school services that could help, but as of now, nothing has been finalized.
Many of the kids attending the Navy Yard Clubhouse come from the nearby NYCHA Farragut Houses. The clubhouse is directly across the street from Farragut, which made it a convenient location for parents to pick up their children. The clubhouse is also directly across the street from the Church of the Open Door, which sits on the same grounds as Farragut; many of the church’s parishioners live in Farragut.
Samantha Johnson, a local activist, spoke of the shock and surprise community members were faced with when they learned the Navy Yard Clubhouse was planning to close. “We were told about this closing…and we knew that we had to mobilize quickly because capitalism does what capitalism does: They limit our access to power. We need to make sure that we mobilize continuously and so we did that, and we met, and we’ve talked to the community.
“We asked what we want, and we found out that what we want is our community: We want our voices to be at the table––and forget to be at the table, we want to build the table.”
Another local activist, Dorian Muller, said, “We are hoping that anybody else that invests in this building keeps the same services. We don’t want a high-rise and that somebody has a pool in the gym or gymnasium. We want the people of Farragut and Fort Greene to have the same service that the Boys Club was giving—or maybe better. That’s why we’re out here today.”
State Attorney General (AG) Letitia James joined the rally and explained that her office has jurisdiction over all New York not-for-profits. “And we have jurisdiction over not-for-profits when they sell a substantial portion of their assets,” she added.
According to the “Guide to Sales and Other Disposition of Assets by Not-For-Profit Corporations,” published by the AG’s office, “New York law governing not-for-profit corporations provides certain protections against the inappropriate transfer of assets of such corporations, including internal procedural rules for authorizing transfers. The law also provides for review by the Attorney General and/or by New York State Supreme Court for certain transactions.
“Because of the important and unique role and responsibility of not-for-profit corporations in the lives of our citizens and communities, and because of their legal responsibility to safeguard their assets and provide for the interests of their members and beneficiaries, the law requires the court’s or the Attorney General’s approval of certain transactions by such corporations.”
Technically, the attorney general’s office cannot step in to do anything about the sale of the Navy Yard Clubhouse until it is triggered to do so by actions in the bankruptcy court, but James said her office is monitoring the situation.
However, because the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Foundation case is set go before a bankruptcy judge on June 12, anyone who wants to see the building remain open can file objections to the building’s sale in bankruptcy court.
The attorney general’s office can assist individuals who want to file objections. “And we will provide forms to the Church of the Open Door so that all of you can sign them,” said James.
As James explained, “A significant number of people brought cases against their abuser. It resulted in judgments against this organization. They’ve got to pay these victims and as a result of that, they decided to sell this building.
“But they have other assets. And the question is whether or not the other assets that they have––the other buildings that they have––have limitations on them. Whether or not they have the ability to sell them. We don’t know. The point is…why are they selling this building in a community which is underserved?”
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