December 15 - 28, 2010
“We treasure our mission of preparing leaders for theworld, and we want to save Chelsea Square. But we need abalanced budget,” said Lowrey. “We had to turn to a trustedpartner…and that person was Dan Brodsky.”Lowrey was joined by a panel consisting of Bishop PeterLee, interim dean; Maureen Burnley, executive vice-presidentfor operations and development; and interim C.F.O. SandraJohnson.Representatives of elected ofﬁcials attended the meeting,including those from the ofﬁces of State Senator ThomasDuane, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and CityCouncil Speaker Christine Quinn. In a statement to ChelseaNow, Duane expressed his disappointment at the sale.“It is regrettable that the General Theological Seminary isin such dire ﬁnancial straits that it is now selling many of itsproperties in the heart of the Chelsea Historic District,” saidDuane. “One would have hoped that after the Seminary soldwhat is now the Chelsea Enclave and converted its DesmondTutu Center to a tourist hotel, it would have the resources toboth fulﬁll its mission and retain its remaining historic build-ings. I am further dismayed that Seminary leadership neitherconsulted with the community before announcing the prop-erties’ sale as a fait accompli, nor did sufﬁcient outreach forits December 7 public meeting regarding the sale.”“However, the Seminary is an important Chelsea institu-tion,” he added. “I and many others who care deeply aboutour community will do all we can to help the Seminary ﬁnda path toward ﬁnancial solvency so it may survive in ourhistoric neighborhood for many years to come.”Gottfried was decidedly more sanguine, saying, “Thecommunity seems pretty comfortable with what G.T.S. feelsthey need to do. I think it’s important that what they’re doingwill preserve the architectural integrity of the property, andif this will help solidify G.T.S. ﬁnancially without in any wayundermining the historic character of the area, that’s what’smost important.”In a 15-minute presentation, Lowrey outlined “The Planto Choose Life” (named after Deuteronomy 30:19) — athree-step plan to eliminate debt, rebuild their endowment,and balance their budget, all with the goal of strengtheningtheir core mission, “to educate and form leaders for thechurch in a changing world.”The G.T.S. hopes to eliminate $41 million in debt andrestore the school’s endowment through the $60 million saleof buildings referred to as 2, 3 and 4 Chelsea Square to theBrodsky Organization to convert into luxury condominiums.They also plan to sell the Chelsea Enclave, fee simple (thegrounds) — a large apartment building at 422 West 20thStreet and the West Building, the oldest historic building onthe Seminary’s campus. The Seminary said the sale would pre-serve the G.T.S.’s classic E-shaped quadrangle known as the“Close,” as well as the historic buildings fronting West 21stStreet. Lowrey also noted that the Brodsky Organization’splanned renovations of the West Building would likely savethe decrepit, aging structure from collapse.The plan calls for students (80 of whom are currentlyhoused in other buildings) to be moved into other buildingsto be renovated, and administrative and faculty ofﬁces to bemoved from the West Building to the Seabury Building. Thefunds will also allow the G.T.S. to build a new library.In his presentation, Lowrey outlined the timeline forbuilding. In the winter and spring of 2011, Dehon andPintard Hall will undergo renovations, while building on thelibrary will begin. In the summer of 2011, Lorillard, White,and Edson Hall will be renovated, the library and ofﬁceswill be relocated and a temporary entrance may be built inthe basement of one of the buildings. Renovations will becompleted in April 2011, and by November 2011, the WestBuilding will be vacated.The G.T.S. hopes the move will eliminate debt with asingle-stop solution, enhance campus security, reduce thedeferred maintenance fees to $15 million (they are currently$100 million), reduce facility costs and upgrade IT. “Half our problems are solved when we sell this property,” saidLowrey.The second half of the plan calls for the sale of a stakein the Desmond Tutu Center to the Episcopal Church, with$20 million to go to the endowment. Restructuring will alsoallow the Seminary to reach a balanced budget by 2013, saidLowrey.Lowrey concluded his presentation with a list of prosand cons, citing among pros the balanced budget, increasedendowment, elimination of debt and ensuring of operatingcosts. Cons included no room for growth, disruptions overthe next 18 months, selling real estate in a very low marketat a discounted package rate and the risks inherent in a planwith many moving parts.But Lowrey seemed pleased at the opportunity to getG.T.S. on more ﬁrm footing, saying, “Churches don’t alwaysrun great businesses, but we do other things very well.”Some attendees expressed their concerns about how theG.T.S. has run the Bishop Desmond Tutu Center. Chelsearesident Sandy Rosin questioned whether the Center was foreducation, or was primarily a hotel, noting, “You have notbeen too forthcoming in the past, so when I hear you say youare transparent now, I ﬁnd it hard to believe.”Lowrey insisted that the G.T.S. marketed the Centerto conferences or friends and family of the EpiscopalChurch. (Burnley recounted that the Center had hosted 30conferences this year to groups, including the Michael J.Fox Foundation, Columbia Business School, the American
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Future Mapped out at G.T.S. Meeting
Continued from page 1Continued on page 12
Photo by Winnie McCroy
Foreground: G.T.S. Interim President Rev. Lang Lowrey. Background, l to r: Bishop Peter Lee, interim dean;Maureen Burnley, executive vice-president for operations and development; and interim C.F.O. Sandra Johnson.
“We can’t sacriﬁce our mission justto become a successful ﬁnancial institution,” said Lowrey. “Some people thought we borrowed thatmoney from God…but in reality, weborrowed it from a bank.”