Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera is asking the New Rochelle City Council to consider a proposal under which the future Hall of Fame reliever would purchase for $1 a church building located on North Avenue, next door to the New Rochelle police station.
Under the plan, the full details of which have been shared with the City but not yet made public, Rivera would rehabilitate the existing structure which would remain a church but also serve as the home for a community center offering educational support services for area students. Rivera’s church is Refugio de Esperenza.
This is hardly Rivera’s first such project.
Through the Mariano Rivera Foundation, the Yankee star has built school cafeterias in Puerto Caimito and La Chorrera Panama, and provided hot lunches at a rural Panamanian elementary school. Money has been donated to the Panamanian National Program “Escuelas Ranchos – Escuelas Dignas” which focuses on education for children from the indigenous communities and poor urban areas and for the construction of schools in rural areas of Panama. With the assistance of The Mariano Rivera Foundation Houses of Worship have been built in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama and The United States.
Rivera’s deep commitment to his faith is well-known. He has previously announced plans to become a evangelical minister after he retires from baseball. The Mariano Rivera Foundation annually distributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to underprivileged children in the US and Panama through church-based institutions.
“Mariano liked the location because it is in an area that is centrally located to reach a diverse group of students”, said former City Council member Joe Fosina who is working with Rivera to bring the plan to fruition.
Fosina said that Rivera is proposing to put up his own money for the project. The Church would be used for prayer services on Sunday, making use of the parking lot at City Hall which is largely unused over the weekend.
The Rivera/Church proposal may be considered at the next City Council meeting.
“The cost to the City to tear down the building and convert the space to a parking lot for the New Rochelle police would be close to half-a-million”, said Council Member Louis Trangucci who is aware of the plan. “The property is already off the tax roll so the sale of the property for use as a church would have no material impact on property taxes”.
Some critics have expressed concern that the property, estimated to be worth over a million dollars, is being given away at a time when the City of New Rochelle is strapped for cash.
“The property as zoned is worth over a million dollars,” said one real estate expert which did not wish to be identified.
UPDATE: City Manager Chuck Strome informs Talk of the Sound that the City is currently reviewing proposals but cannot sell the property until it has been appraised. Once the appraisal is done, the matter will be brought before Council.
“The decision to put the property out under RFP came from the City Council,” added Strome. “Council will have the opportunity to review all proposals before any decision is made.”
Talk of the Sound has learned that the City put out a Request for Proposal to buy the property only to churches with the intention of putting an RFP to developers if no churches responded.
Three two churches did respond, including Rivera and one from Rev. Hudson of the Union Baptist Church which was destroyed by a massive fire. Correction — Bezer Holiness Church was the second church. There was one late application.
Stones and masonry from the bell tower at the Church began to fall off last summer and on August 10th, 2010 a company was hired to dismantle the tower. The stone was given to the contractor as part of the deal and the estimated value of the stone was deducted from the cost. The precise terms of the deal have not been made public.
Rivera is a deeply religious man. According to an article in the Baseball Almanac, Rivera has financed the construction of a church in Panama City, Panama and said that after the end of his baseball career he intends to become an evangelical minister.
His Wikipedia entry says that Rivera is “involved with philanthropic contributions in his native Panama, which include building an elementary school and a church, providing Christmas gifts to children, and developing a program that provides computer access and adult mentors to youths. The Mariano Rivera Foundation annually distributes more than US$500,000 to underprivileged children in the US and Panama through church-based institutions. Rivera intends to dedicate himself to philanthropy after retiring from baseball.