Op-Ed: David V. Goliath in Harlem

samuel church templeBy Renae Francis & Tyrone Holmes

If you’ve ever walked along 125th Street between Park and Madison Avenue in the center of Historic Harlem,  New York you are apt to feel yourself entering a whole new world.It is the world of history. You will find yourself in the epicenter of history, culture and revelation as you walk by Samuel’s Temple Church located at 75 East 125th Street.  You will find yourself overwhelmed with love, acceptance, community and above all, Spirit.  The Church was founded over half a century years ago by Bishop Leon and his wife Shirley Holmes Sulton. Their youngest son Tyrone Holmes helps with administration tasks and plays the organ while his mother, Shirley Holmes still leads the faithful congregation to this very day.

Samuel’s Temple Church through the hard work of Executive Pastor Tyrone Holmes and Senior Pastor Shirley Sulton, provides a vast array of community services, including a food pantry, shelter for both the homeless and victims of domestic violence, education programs for youth, as well as anti-gang & gun, anti-violence programs.

For the past several years, Samuel’s Temple Church has been embroiled in a mammoth battle to save the church from outside forces seeking to bamboozle and defraud the church of its historic church building, today worth millions of dollars due to its highly sought after multi level air rights running as high as 500 feet.

Court documents allege that one of Allstate’s insurance top agents has embezzled a significant amount of Church funds.  Even more harmful, a high profile attorney/real estate developer, according to legal papers filed in the Federal Court, has committed fraudulent actions against Samuel’s Temple Church.

According to the Complaint filed by Samuel’s Temple Church, an attorney/real estate developer by the name of Saadia Shapiro, his wife Marla Shapiro and their corporation, Parade Place LLC, entered into a contract with the Church to renovate the Church, along with adjacent properties.  The alleged Defendants in this case have done absolutely nothing to keep their promises in that Contract, despite the fact that a personal guarantee was made and the Defendants further waived any rights to a discharge of that obligation through Bankruptcy.  The Complaint depicts the actions of the  Shapiro’s and Parade Place, LLC, who extracted refinance monies by means of fraud with a local “hi-profile” bank to which the Defendants had ties.

The Complaint further alleges that the Shapiro’s and Parade Place have engaged in Bankruptcy Fraud.  As a result, Samuel’s Temple Church is now faced with a “Notice of Foreclosure” sale. It is hard to believe that prior to involvement with the Shapiro’s and Parade Place, Samuel’s Temple Church was mortgage free.  According to the filed Complaint the Shapiro’s and Parade Place have fraudulently extracted all of the Church’s equity.  Equity that was worth millions of dollars.

Pastor Holmes, while a very spiritual man, and believes that “God can move a mountain”, is also a practical, sensible and logical man who understands that “God can move a mountain” but “we must all carry the shovels to help God do His Work”

Anyone interested in further developments in this case, or believes they can offer guidance or assistance is welcome to contact the Church at www.stcnyc.org.  Meanwhile, we all wish Pastor Holmes and his mom Godspeed in their noble efforts to save this beloved and most upright institution established over half a century years ago.

Editors’ Note: Op-Ed does not reflect the views of Harlem World Magazine.

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