Over the past two weekends, a number of local churches have held “Blessing of the Animals” ceremonies, in which parishioners are invited to bring their pets for just that purpose. The events are timed to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. This past Saturday, at Church of the Epiphany’s ceremony, Father Austin Titus led the ceremony for local pooches and a guinea pig (pictured above). Another ceremony was held on the West Side at the Church of St. Francis Xavier (pictured below). Guests included a turtle, a service dog (shown in jacket) and quite a few other dogs.
On Saturday, Immaculate Conception Church held its annual Blessing of the Animals event, a church tradition timed around observances of the Feast of St. Francis Assisi, the patron saint of animals. All of the owners of the four-legged guests — dogs of all shapes and sizes mainly — also got to go home with special certificates. At least one cat owner was successful in getting her pet out of its carrier for the ritual, which is always a well-attended one. The Catholic Church on East 14th Street will have another celebration next Sunday when Monsignor Kevin Nelan celebrates the 40th anniversary of his ordination. A mass will take place at 1 p.m., a reception at 2 p.m.
Photos by Moriah Sterling
By Sabina Mollot
When Superstorm Sandy struck nearly five years ago, the buildings at Haven Plaza, a low and middle-income apartment complex located a block south of Stuyvesant Town, incurred massive damage. Following an explosion at the nearby Con Ed generating plant, Haven Plaza’s electrical system shorted out. Along with everyone else living in the adjacent communities, residents of Haven Plaza’s 371 apartments were trapped without elevator service, electricity or heat. Men and women of the National Guard shared field rations with residents, many of them seniors, until the power returned.
Following the disaster, the property underwent a much-needed $50 million overhaul in repairs and renovations. This included work on roofs and elevators that had to be replaced.
Then last month, another major project with a price tag of nearly $10 million began aimed at preventing future disaster-related damage on the property.
That project is a new, two-story infrastructure building designed to be disaster-resistant as well as associated resiliency upgrades at the complex, which is located on Avenue C between 10th and 13th Streets.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Brooklyn resident Michael Torres is being charged with burglary and criminal mischief to be prosecuted as hate crimes after police said that the 20-year-old vandalized Immaculate Conception Church at 414 East 14th Street last Wednesday night.
Local blog Bedford and Bowery originally reported the vandalism last Thursday, noting that Torres was caught on camera leaving an AA meeting at the church earlier that day and reportedly returned later in the evening, forcing the front door open. John Matcovich, the parish manager at the church, said that the side doors of the church were also badly damaged, but from the inside.
“He must have thought those were rooms but they’re just other doors that lead back outside, to the courtyard,” Matcovich said.
Torres had allegedly used the end of an incense holder as a battering ram to break through the side doors. Although the church is in the process of sorting out the cost of the damage, Matcovich said that the administrators made sure to fix and secure the doors as soon as possible.
In addition to the doors, the vandalism was originally reported to cost $100,000 in damage but Matcovich said that once everything is finalized with the insurance company, it will likely be more. He noted that all 14 of the Stations of the Cross had been destroyed and those alone were worth more than $3,000 each.
The blog noted that a number of statues at the church were destroyed, including a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary that was over a hundred years old and had been moved from Mary Help of Christians shortly before it was demolished in 2013. An icon depicting the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus was also destroyed.
Matcovich noted that due to the mess from the vandalism, mass had to be held in the parish basement on Thursday but he said that partially due to the quick work of the insurance company in documenting the damage, the church was able to reopen on Friday.
“That was really important to us,” Matcovich said.
Matcovich will be putting a list together for the insurance company once church officials know what can’t be salvaged, but he said that a fund is being set up if community residents or parishioners want to contribute. Checks can be made out to Immaculate Conception Church but with a note in the memo that the donation is for the vandalism relief fund.
Bedford and Bowery noted that Torres was caught by police after he found himself locked inside the church’s cloister and he was arrested shortly before 11 p.m. He was being held on $10,000 bail or bond but the Department of Corrections said that he was released on Tuesday because his bail had been paid.
Torres’ attorney Steve Hoffman said that his client was currently being psychiatrically evaluated and since Torres made bail, his family has been taking care of him.
“We’re hopeful that he gets the help that he clearly needs,” Hoffman said.
Immaculate Conception Church celebrates a parochial vicar there nearly 40 years
By Sabina Mollot
When Francis Xavier Buu was a child growing up in South Vietnam, he knew he wanted to become a priest, and against all odds, including his country’s economy collapsing in 1975, and his becoming a refugee not long after he’d become ordained, he still had his dream of working in the Catholic church come true.
On December 28, 2014, Buu, now a parochial vicar, celebrated his 40th anniversary of priestly ordination, 39 of those years at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Over 100 people, mainly friends and family, were in attendance at a dinner, held that day while a crowd of over 400 people, mainly parishioners, attended a celebratory mass, also that Sunday, in his honor.
In a twist of irony, Reverend Buu, whose heavily accented English can still be tough to understand to those who don’t know him well, is well known throughout the parish community for the personal service he offers, usually through one-on-one communion or counsel.
Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Reverend Monsignor Kevin Nelan, noted that Buu comprehends English as well as anyone born in the United States. However, he’s always had trouble speaking it.
“It was a great challenge,” said Nelan, of finding the best way to put Buu’s skills to use since, despite his intelligence, the language barrier just made certain services expected of a vicar impossible. “He can’t teach a class or give a homily.” But, Nelan added, “For most people who know Father Buu, it’s not so much about what he communicates verbally, but what he communicates emotionally.”
By Sabina Mollot
Police have released surveillance photos of the man who coolly strode into Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday, prowled various rooms and then left with $11,000 in cash from a rectory bedroom on Sunday.
Based on the photos and video that was taken, the church’s pastor, Monsignor Kevin Nelan said he believes the man is Hispanic, and in his 20s, brushing 30. Based on his actions, he added, police are looking into the possibility that someone gave him information about where to look for the money.
The unidentified man first entered the church at 414 East 14th Street at 1:15 p.m. as a group of parishioners was entering the building. He then tried to access a few rooms including — twice — Nelan’s locked bedroom in the rectory. “That’s what made me think someone gave him information,” Nelan said. The man also didn’t bother searching anywhere in a community room he went into. The bedroom broken into was on the third floor, which doesn’t have cameras, and the priest who was victimized didn’t even realize the money had been taken from his nightstand until Tuesday.
Based on security footage, the man was in the church building for around 25 minutes before he was finally confronted by employees and escorted out. This was when the parish’s music director immediately realized he shouldn’t be there and asked what he was doing, Nelan said. In response, the man mumbled that he was looking for someone named Maria, but he still didn’t leave until confronted by two other employees, one of whom followed him through the stairs out the door.
“He was either very confident or very stupid,” said Nelan. “He didn’t know or didn’t care that he was being filmed.”
Since the incident, detectives from the 9th Precinct have been interviewing church employees who worked on Sunday about the prowler. “They’re going after any lead they can find,” said Nelan, who said at this time there is still no suspect in mind. However, he added, “We’re going to put his picture everywhere.”
The man was able to access the building when a church employee opened the door for a group of people heading to a meeting room. Though initially the burglar was thought to be in the middle of the group, he was actually at the end, possibly waiting for someone to open the door. “As it was closing, he stepped inside,” said Nelan, who added that since the incident, church employees have been spoken to about being more vigilant about keeping track of the entrances. Still, he stressed he didn’t think it was the fault of the woman who let him in. “It’s like at a building when someone waits for an old lady to come in and puts his foot in the door. We all have to be more vigilant. Thank God no one was hurt. Thank God he wasn’t violent.”
The burglary suspect is a light skinned man who was wearing a black baseball hat, brown shorts, white sneakers and a red t-shirt. Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637(CRIMES).
Compiled by Maria Rocha-Buschel
BURGLAR HITS IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
Police are looking for a burglar who stole $11,000 in cash from the rectory at Immaculate Conception Church. The man entered the church at 414 East 14th Street on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. and then went into a bedroom located on the third floor rectory where he took the money from a nightstand, cops said. He is described as a light skinned man who was wearing a black baseball hat, brown shorts, white sneakers and a red t-shirt. Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637(CRIMES).
FORMER BETH ISRAEL DOCTOR CONVICTED
Lawrence Levitan, 58, was sentenced to six months of jail time and 1,000 hours of community service this past Tuesday. The former Beth Israel Medical Center ob-gyn pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the third degree this past February. At trial, he admitted to stealing $268,000 from the hospital by diverting insurance checks and cheating on his taxes.
CRAIGSLIST-SCAMMED IN COFFEE SHOP
Police arrested 24-year-old Dequaan Brown for a robbery inside the restaurant Coffee Shop at 29 Union Square West last Saturday at 2 p.m. A 26-year-old man told police that he was meeting Brown to buy a Galaxy 5 phone from him. He originally spoke to someone named Carlos that he found through Craigslist. They had agreed to meet in Union Square for the transaction but Carlos then called the victim at 1:45 p.m. and told him that he wouldn’t be able to make it but that his partner Dequaan would meet him instead. The victim told Carlos that he would wait for Dequaan in the Coffee Shop near the park. A few minutes later, the victim got a text from Brown asking for the location of the restaurant. When he arrived, he asked the victim if he had the money for the phone and after the victim gave him $400 in cash, Brown allegedly said, “I have a gun in my duffel bag. Don’t chase me.” He then walked out of the restaurant calmly and the victim followed him to the train station. They both ended up on a downtown Q train and the victim then asked the conductor to stop the train. The conductor stopped the train at Canal Street and the train doors opened, giving Brown the opportunity to run again. He allegedly attempted to flee but ran into two officers from the First Precinct. The victim told the police, “That’s the guy,” and Brown was arrested and brought back to the 13th Precinct.
NEIGHBOR HARASSMENT IN 19 STUY OVAL
A resident of 19 Stuyvesant Oval reported last Monday at 3:38 p.m. that she has been continually harassed by a neighbor in her building. She told police that she received two text messages from him and she was alarmed by the messages because they made no sense and were sexually explicit. She said that she ran into him on the street at East 18th Street and First Avenue. He started talking to her and made no sense, saying that she was yelling when she wasn’t and he told her, “You’re just another Jew.” The victim was alarmed by the incident and said anything else happens, she said that she wants to file an order of protection.
KNIFE PULLED AT WATERSIDE PLAZA
Police arrested 60-year-old Angel Fuentes for menacing inside 40 Waterside Plaza last Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Police responded to the scene and a 55-year-old man told them that Fuentes allegedly came out of his apartment, displaying a kitchen knife and menaced him with it. At that point, the victim called the police and then met them in the lobby. Fuentes wasn’t in his apartment by the time police came but after conducting a canvass, they found him in the front of the building. He was also allegedly in possession of a small bag of marijuana.
‘PERVS’ NABBED IN UNION SQUARE
Police arrested two men for unlawful surveillance at the Union Square subway station last week. Thirty-seven-year-old Marquis Traynham was arrested last Thursday at 8:55 a.m. Traynham allegedly put an electronic recording device under the skirt of multiple women on a downtown 6 train and the subway stairs while the women were leaving the station. Police arrested 35-year-old Jose Quezada Veloz last Friday at 6:39 p.m. Veloz was seen standing directly under the right side of the stairs leading to the downtown 4/5/6 platform and he was allegedly looking up the skirts of women going up and down the stairs and also had his cell phone in video mode pointed directly under a woman’s skirt with the lens facing up.
HIT-AND-RUN ON EAST 23RD
A 48-year-old man reported that he was involved in a car accident opposite 400 East 23rd Street last Thursday at 10:05 a.m. He told police that he was driving west on East 23rd Street when a woman in a white sedan struck his car, causing him to hit a parked car. She then fled the scene west and onto First Avenue. There were no injuries and no arrests were made.
MOTORCYCLE STOLEN ON EAST 14TH
A 24-year-old man reported that his motorcycle was stolen after he parked it in front of 655 East 14th Street at midnight last Wednesday. He told police that he parked the bike there and when he went to retrieve it later on Wednesday, the bike was gone. The tow pound had no record of the bike being towed and Stuy Town security said that their cameras don’t face the area where the bike was removed from.
BAG STOLEN IN STUYVESANT SQUARE PARK
A 13-year-old boy reported that his bag while he was in Stuyvesant Square Park at the northeast corner of Perlman Place and East 15th Street last Friday at 2:45 p.m. He told police that he put his bag on a bench and walked around the park. When he went back to the bench, his bag, which contained his iPhone, Nintendo 3DS, a Pokemon game and school supplies, was gone.
FOUR NABBED IN BRAWL OUTSIDE STUY TOWN
Police arrested 42-year-old Christopher Todd, 39-year-old Anika Reynolds, 33-year-old Eric Gersbeck and another individual for assault in front of 647 East 14th Street last Thursday at 8:34 a.m. The four allegedly got into a fight in front of Stuyvesant Town. All of them sustained minor scratches and refused medical attention at the scene.
CYCLIST KICKED ON SECOND AVENUE
A 22-year-old cyclist reported that he was assaulted while he was riding his bike at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and East 15th Street last Thursday at 7 p.m. He told police that he was riding his bike and an unknown person kicked him, causing him to fall off the bike and cause minor bleeding due to a cut on his knee. The person then fled in an unknown direction and no arrests have been made.
IPHONE STOLEN FROM FARMER’S MARKET
A 22-year-old woman reported that her iPhone was stolen while she was in Union Square Park at East 17th Street last Saturday at 5 p.m. She told police that she was working at the farmer’s market and left her cell phone on a table unattended while she went to the bathroom and when she returned, her phone was missing. She said that she tracked the phone and it was located at First Avenue and St. Mark’s Place.
CYCLIST HIT-AND-RUN BY CABBIE
A 44-year-old man reported that he was involved in an accident while he was on his bike in front of 160 West 25th Street last Thursday at 7:30 p.m. He told police that he was riding his bike at the location when a taxi hit his bike from the rear. The victim then fell off his bike and got a bruise on his head and hand, and he also complained of back pain. The taxi fled the scene and a canvass was conducted of the area with negative results. The victim could only remember that it was a taxi that hit him and had no other information.
IPHONE STOLEN AT STUY TOWN PARTY
An 18-year-old woman reported that her phone was stolen while she was inside 330 First Avenue on Saturday, May 17 at 11:59 p.m. She told police that she had left the phone inside the apartment while there for a friend’s party and when she went back to retrieve the phone, it was missing. The phone was tracked through “Find my iPhone” to a location in Brooklyn.
MAN BUSTED FOR KNIFE AT FIRST AVE L
Police arrested 28-year-old Nicholas Kleoudis for criminal possession of a weapon last Saturday at 11:28 p.m. at the First Avenue L station. Kleoudis allegedly had a black metal clip attached to his front right pants pocket and upon further investigation, it was determined to be a gravity knife, police said.
ARREST MADE FOR ‘POT’ POSSESSION
Police arrested 29-year-old Anthony Womack for unlawful possession of marijuana last Saturday at 4:20 p.m. in the Union Square station. Womack was sitting on the steps in the station, blocking passenger movement. When asked, he had no form of identification to give the police and a bag of alleged marijuana was recovered from his left front pants pocket.
NO ARRESTS IN EAST 15TH ST. TAUNTING
A 41-year-old woman reported that she was harassed at the northeast corner of East 15th Street and the FDR on Sunday, May 18 at 4:30 p.m. She told police that someone approached her, pulled her hair and then ran away. When she confronted him, he told her, “We were playing a game.”