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Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right...

October 4, 2006

The Happy Tots Child Care Center moved back in to the Church of the Holy Name of Mary on August 15, 2006. The school program first set up back in the gym and then moved back into four classrooms. And since then, the Happy Tots staff has not willing to sign a temporary lease that would terminate on December 31, 2006. Thereby, no lease currently exists. Why would the church allow that to happen?

In the meantime, the Church of the Holy Name of Mary raised the rent by a whopping 38%. Worse, for the program, is that Happy Tots Child Care Center now has half the space they originally had. The school now requires less space now because of their recent drop in enrollment of a third to half compared to Spring 2006 (see: “Fate of Croton Daycare Center Hangs in the Balance…”). What message might that be sending to parishioners and neighbors alike?

Meanwhile, Happy Tots Child Care Center had a hearing in the Town of Cortlandt on October 3, 2006, for an approval from the town board to begin renovating the old WHUD building on Station Way in Peekskill as their new home. So, the staff continues to tell parents that the new site will be ready in two months, but it seems like anyone who thinks they know anything about the school’s future plans also knows they may be wrong.

So, it appears that the Church of the Holy Name of Mary continues to not want to have anything to do with Happy Tots and will make it unbearable for them—but so far, not in a way that brings any attention to them. While Happy Tots wants to stay in business, they are fighting with the church to do so, but on the other hand telling parents not to worry. One might wonder who really loses out in this game.

On October 8, 2006 2:07 PM, John Lally said:

First, I want to correct your inaccurate statement that Holy Name of Mary Parish (HNM) has “raised the rent [for Happy Tots] by a whopping 38%.” In fact, HNM has reduced Happy Tot’s (HT) rent by 31%. The HT rent was $6,500/mo through June ‘06; the new unsigned lease specifies rent of $4,500/mo. Moreover, the rent HNM has charged the management of HT over the years has consistently been below market rates.

More importantly, I want to correct your misperception “that the Church of the Holy Name of Mary continues to not want to have anything to do with Happy Tots …” On the contrary, during these difficult last three years HNM has extended itself and has tried to be sensitive to the needs of the parents, children, and employees of HT, while at the same time meeting our own needs.

Let’s look at the facts. Our current extension of occupancy for HT is the fourth we’ve granted them, in response to their appeals, during the two years since June 2004, a year after HT had first told us they would be moving to their own building.

It was then in 2004 that, having learned two floors of space in our building would be freed up, we began to plan for alternate uses. Our Own Montessori school was using an improvised space in two large meeting rooms, so that classroom furniture had to be shifted around every time that we had meetings. It could now have its own dedicated space. In addition, offices in two different buildings could be consolidated at one location. We also had a growing need for more meeting spaces to accommodate the increasing number of ministries and activities in the parish. So we planned for a fund-raising campaign to pay for the needed renovations. This Parish Center Capital Campaign was carried out during the fall-winter of 2005-2006 and has raised over $1.3 million from our parishioners.

Please keep in mind that the last HT lease expired on June 30, 2005, and that HNM has had no legal obligation to provide space to Happy Tots Day Care Center, Inc., since that date. However, we have felt empathy for the children, parents and employees of the corporation. Consequently, we have met with them, we have granted extensions of occupancy to HT and have had to rearrange our reconstruction plans accordingly.

Now we finally must consider the needs of our own parish family first in this matter. Our Parish Center Task Force has told us that construction of office space on the third floor (currently occupied by HT) will begin during the first week of January, so HT will have to vacate by the end of December.

When in mid-August we granted HT management one last period of occupancy to help them out as long as we could, we also gave them a lease to be signed, with a terminal date of December 31th. We have not yet received it.

By helping HT look for alternative space and by changing our own plans and modifying our own reconstruction schedules, we believe that we have gone the extra mile to be good neighbors. Now we ask the management of HT to reciprocate.

John Lally, HNM Parish Council President

On October 8, 2006 1:31 PM, Bill Pohlmann said:

Re: Two Wrongs…

When the Happy Tots corporation renewed their lease with Holy Name of Mary Church for the July ’03 to June ’04 year they were so sure that they would be in their new building by the end of the lease that they declined an opportunity offered by HNM to provide for the unexpected by writing in an automatic extension of the lease on a month-to-month basis after June ’04.

As things worked out, HT needed to ask for a first lease extension to September ’04, a second extension to June ’05, a third extension to June ’06 and a fourth extension to June ’07. HNM agreed to the first and second extensions, agreed to a modified third extension on a month-to-month basis and agreed to a partial fourth extension to December 30, 2006. Since HT had lost clients in the interim, the fourth extension was for a reduced amount of space. The monthly rental payments were reduced by 31%.

Clearly, HNM has a right to use its own building while recognizing its obligation to the community. Compared with a commercial landlord, the church’s obligations have been fulfilled many times over. Happy Tots intent in not signing the final lease seems to be to reserve the opportunity to, once again, compensate for its own poor planning by pointing an accusatory finger at the church because it’s a big target. In this case, the only finger pointing should be done in front of a mirror.

On October 6, 2006 8:28 AM, Tom Faranda said:

Wow.

You really should have posted this in your “Don’t confuse me with the facts” section. Since you made a hash of the facts.

As Croton-Blog loves innuendo-laden rhetorical questions, here’s one for you. Who did you speak with at Holy Name of Mary before publishing your hit piece? The pastor? The assistant pastor? The administrator? Perhaps the head of the Parish Council?

Just to counter one of your phony implications, the facts are that anyone renting business space in Cortlandt would have been delighted to get the kind of sweetheart deal on rent that Happy Tots has enjoyed over the years - and continues to enjoy.

Tom Faranda



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