Church Cleared to Be Sold for $41 Million: Evidence That Douglas Steiner Is Mystery Buyer

5U5T0753Alberto Reyes Last mass at Mary Help of Christians

The Archdiocese of New York has been authorized to sell Mary Help of Christians Church for $41 million, and evidence points to Douglas C. Steiner, a developer of luxury residences and the owner of Steiner Studios, as the church’s prospective buyer.

Court documents obtained by The Local indicate that on Aug. 29, the Church of Mary Help of Christians and the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral filed a petition to sell the church property, including the church and school buildings at 436 East 12th Street, the rectory at 440 East 12th Street, and the parking lot (formerly home to the flea market) at 181 Avenue A. A State Supreme Court order, dated Sept. 6, authorized the sale to an entity identified only as 181 Avenue A, LLC. According to the documents, a contract dated May 11 indicated that the sellers had agreed to a total purchase price of $41 million, well above a Cushman & Wakefield appraisal that valued the property between $34 million and $37 million.

Mary Help of ChristiansChelsia Rose Marcius

Word that Mr. Steiner is the buyer has been circulating among those associated with the church. “His name has been floating around the neighborhood for quite some time as the buyer,” said one parishioner earlier this month who did not want to be named.

There’s now reason to believe those whisperings: Michael Utevsky, a lawyer who has been involved with Mr. Steiner’s real estate deals, is listed as a contact for 181 Avenue A, LLC on the information filed with the New York Department of State’s Division of Corporations.

photo(116)Daniel Maurer A mural inside the school building.

Reached by phone today and asked to confirm that Mr. Steiner is the buyer, Mr. Utevsky paused for a few seconds and then said he could not comment. “I don’t comment as a general matter on my transactions and my clients,” he added. “I’m sorry, but I can try and reach my client and see if I am able to discuss anything with you.” Soon after, The Local received a call from Mr. Steiner’s spokeswoman, who also declined to comment. A spokesman for the Archdiocese did not respond to calls and e-mails.

In July, The Times profiled Mr. Steiner – who, according to the paper, keeps an apartment in the East Village – and reported that his firm, Steiner NYC, was “in the midst of closing on its first Manhattan site, land south of 23rd Street where it will build a 100-unit luxury rental building.” According to the profile, the firm has evolved from specializing in industrial properties to suburban office parks and now multifamily residential properties such as a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that was purchased in June for $38 million, a 60-unit rental property in Carroll Gardens purchased for $24.5 million, and “The Hub,” a 720-unit building set for downtown Brooklyn.

Bernarda OrtizSuzanne Rozdeba Bernarda Otiz, matron of the flea market.

Mr. Steiner also owns Steiner Studios, a massive movie and television lot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that may expand into a 50-acre “media campus.” Interestingly, “Boardwalk Empire” is produced there. The HBO show filmed inside of Mary Help of Christians in June.

The church held its last mass on Sunday, and parishioners, some of whom have taken to worshiping on the sidewalk, are being moved over to Immaculate Conception for Spanish-language mass Sundays at 11:30 a.m.