Former pastor at Epiphany Church facing child pornography charges

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Monsignor Harry J. Byrne

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, a former pastor of Epiphany Church, Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, was charged with possessing dozens of images of child pornography.

The now 96-year-old retired priest of the Catholic Church allegedly had photos of girls as young as eight on his computer performing sex acts with men or posing naked. Additionally, according to an investigation conducted by Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Byrne even viewed the images in front of many other people at his retirement home, the St. John Vianney Center for Retired Priests in the Bronx.

“People at his residence were subjected to it when they entered his room,” said Clark in a written statement. “Anyone who views child pornography supports horrific child exploitation.”

The monsignor was indicted on 37 counts of possession of an obscene sexual performance by a child and 37 counts of possession of a sexual performance by a child.

The investigation began five months ago after Clark’s office got a complaint about Byrne. The investigation concluded that he allegedly sought out images of young girls (aged 8-14) by using Google and Bing.

If convicted of the top charge, Byrne could face four years in prison and have to register as a sex offender.

Byrne, who worked at Epiphany from 1982-1996, where he retired from, pled not guilty to all the charges on Tuesday. He was arraigned before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary and was released. He is due back in court on January 17.

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Gramercy block co-named to honor Mother Cabrini

Council Member Rosie Mendez at the ceremony with Sister Pietrina Raccuglia, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was founded by Mother Cabrini (Photo courtesy of Council Member Rosie Mendez)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East 19th Street between Second and Third Avenues has been co-named in honor of a saint who was a presence on the block since the early 1900s.

Father Arthur Golino, a former priest at Epiphany Church who was recently transferred to St. Patrick’s, was the impetus for the co-naming and said on Friday during a brief ceremony that the 100th anniversary of the death of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini gave him a reason to push for the dedication.

“We figured that the sisters have been in the neighborhood for 100 years so it was about time they were recognized,” Golino said. “She walked around this neighborhood and 19th Street between Second and Third was always famous for Cabrini sisters.”

Mother Cabrini, who was the first naturalized American citizen to be canonized, came to the United States in the late 1800s to help Italian immigrants. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and although the congregation is now based on East 19th Street, missionary sisters are scattered throughout the world and a handful even came from far-off posts in Ethiopia, Brazil and Central America to attend the dedication ceremony and sisters from the congregation helped to organize the event held last week.

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Police Watch: Woman arrested after swallowing lit joint, Man arrested for unprovoked attack

WOMAN ARRESTED AFTER SWALLOWING LIT JOINT
Police arrested 24-year-old Ashley Balbuena for criminal tampering and possession of marijuana in front of 72 East 26th Street last Thursday at 11:10 p.m. Police said that Balbuena was smoking a joint on the sidewalk in public view and when an officer approached her and identified himself, Balbuena allegedly attempted to eat and swallow the lit joint. Police said that she was informed several times that she would be arrested if she swallowed the joint but she continued to do so. Balbuena was arrested and taken to Bellevue Hospital.

MAN ARRESTED AFTER UNPROVOKED ATTACK
Police arrested 22-year-old Thomas Blyden after he allegedly assaulted a passerby unprovoked at the corner of East 25th Street and First Avenue last Wednesday at 8:52 p.m. Police said that Blyden punched a man he didn’t know for no apparent reason. When police attempted to confront him, Blyden allegedly fled and when officers caught up with him, he allegedly tensed his body to prevent being handcuffed. Blyden was charged with assault and resisting arrest.

MAN NABBED FOR BURGLARY AT EPIPHANY
Thirty-year-old Tony Scott was arrested for burglary inside 239 East 21st Street last Wednesday at 7:50 p.m. Scott allegedly entered the commercial office inside the church and removed property without permission. Police said that Scott did not have permission to be inside the office. No further information was available about what was taken.

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Epiphany looks back on blaze that destroyed original church

Firefighters put out the fire that destroyed the Epiphany Church’s original location in 1963. Fifty years ago, the church reopened in a new location. (Town & Village photo)

Firefighters put out the fire that destroyed the Epiphany Church’s original location in 1963. Fifty years ago, the church reopened in a new location. (Town & Village photo)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Epiphany Church on Second Avenue will be celebrating a number of milestone anniversaries in the next year, beginning with the 50th anniversary this coming week of the congregation’s reopening after a devastating fire. The blaze gutted the church only five days before Christmas in 1963, on December 20, destroying a landmarked building that had been in the neighborhood since 1870. The church was able to reopen exactly three years later in 1966.

“The new building didn’t even have pews for that first mass, just folding chairs, but they wanted to have the service on the same day as the fire to show how quickly the community came together,” parishioner Richard Sawicki said of the new building’s reopening.

Sawicki, who currently lives on Second Avenue across from Epiphany, was not a member of the church at the time of the fire but joined the congregation not long after the new building opened, and has been interested in the church’s history for a number of years.

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City insists no sex offenders live at shelter

Community residents expressed concern about sex offenders and violent felons. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Community residents expressed concern about sex offenders and violent felons. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The status of the 30th Street Men’s Shelter, and whether sex offenders are still staying there was one of the main topics discussed at a forum on homelessness, which was attended by over 100 people.

The forum, held at the Epiphany Parish Hall on Tuesday evening, was hosted by City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez. Representatives from the NYPD, the Department of Homeless Services and various non-profit agencies dedicated to assisting the homeless also showed up to discuss street outreach programs and employment resources made available to help homeless people get back on their feet.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks to do a 90-day review of homeless services throughout the city and Banks was at the forum to focus on specific issues that affect the neighborhood, primarily the 30th Street Men’s Shelter.

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Pro-life rally at Epiphany

Protesters got met with a few middle fingers hanging out of passing car windows. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Protesters got met with a few middle fingers hanging out of passing car windows. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On the heels of a near government shutdown in Washington over funding of Planned Parenthood, a pro-life rally was held locally in front of Epiphany Church on Sunday. This particular rally, with around 40 protesters participating, was in support of a national pro-life movement called Life Chain that holds rallies every October.

Beth Mumm, a resident of Peter Cooper Village and the organizer of the event in front of the Gramercy Catholic church, said that Life Chain has been organizing these rallies for longer but she has organized this event in Manhattan for the last three years. The website for National Life Chain says that the organization has been holding rallies since 1987, when the first event was held in two small California towns.

Mumm said that most of the people who usually come to participate are parishioners at Epiphany, but this year there was also a group that traveled from Hicksville on Long Island, as well as a handful of people from St. Brigid’s on Avenue B and churches in Brooklyn. Representatives from the religious community also participated, including sisters from Sisters of Life and friars from Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

While the original Life Chain rally that started almost 30 years ago consisted of an actual chain, one of people linking arms and standing in prayer, the current incarnation involves participants standing on the sidewalk and displaying signs that say “Abortion kills children,” “Adoption: the loving option” and “Jesus forgives and heals.”

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This week in T&V history: Epiphany gets money to rebuild

The old Epiphany Church goes up in flames.

The old Epiphany Church goes up in flames.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Town & Village Newspaper has been providing news for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for over 65 years. Here is a snapshot of what was happening in the neighborhood 50 years ago this week.

Epiphany gets money to rebuild

This issue of T&V reported that the fundraising campaign to rebuild Epiphany Church had surpassed all expectations, raising $360,000. The church had been almost completely destroyed in a fire a few days before Christmas the previous year. The amount raised almost reached the suggested minimum of $400,000 that the church would need to rebuild and the story noted that the rate of donations indicated that the real need of $900,000 was likely to be pledged by the time the campaign ended in November.

Architectural firm Belfatto and Pavarini designed the new church, which was “strikingly modern.” The estimated cost of the new building was a total of $1.3 million. The insurance from the fire covered $704,450, which left about $600,000 of that sum, but the church had also purchased additional property, adding about $300,000. The rebuilding process started in 1965 and took two years, completing in 1967. It ultimately cost $1.2 million. The rectory on East 21st Street, which was built in 1936, was not burnt down in the fire.

Students aid “needy Southern Negroes”

Local residents and about 20 Stuyvesant High School student volunteers participated in a food drive in front of a supermarket on East 14th Street the previous Saturday, raising food, clothing and money for people in Mississippi and other areas in the South.

The event was the third annual food drive hosted by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was also affiliated with local and national civil rights organizations. At the time, Mississippi law stated that the names of all people who had taken the voter registration test had to be printed in the local paper for two weeks, which subjected black families to retaliatory actions. Many of the children didn’t go to school because they didn’t have clothing to wear and many families were the target for homemade bombs and telephone threats.

The story reported that the kindness of residents exceeded expectations and volunteers found themselves deluged with clothing and food, and monetary donations from the sale of books, buttons and bumper stickers were also overwhelming.