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Parishioners Protest Trinity Church's Real Estate Deals

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Trinity Church has always called itself one of the largest landowners in Manhattan (and that's verbatim). Now we know exactly how large?and just how many church parishioners are aggrieved by what they see as an overly corporate and decidedly un-Episcopal attitude towards spending its real estate-padded coffers.

As the church faces a lawsuit from a particularly displeased parishioner, the Times breaks down how much the church is worth ($2 billion, largely the result of commercial developments on the 14 acres of land it owns in the Financial District, Hudson Square, Soho and other areas) and why community members are divided on the leadership decisions that determine how to dole out that sum. The debate becomes even more significant now, as the recent rezoning of Hudson Square allows Trinity to build residential towers there, too, and therefore boost its profit even further.

The church's wealth stems from a gift that dates back to 1705: 215 acres of Manhattan farmland from England's Queen Anne. Over the years, chunks have been sold off, leaving it with 14... but that 14 acres houses some 5.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, according to the Times, which in 2011 earned $158 million in revenue. That money is channeled back out to several sources: mostly towards managing the buildings it owns, and church administrative expenditures like communications, philanthropic spending, its music program, and maintaining its many historic holdings.

Yet many don't agree that enough attention is being paid (a.k.a. cash is being spent) on worthwhile or charitable outlets and other causes that resonate with the church's mission, and scuffles over those issues led to the resignation of half of the 22-person vestry last year. And now a former community leader, Jeremy Bates, has filed a lawsuit alleging that the church's financial statements aren't transparent enough, and that leadership isn't chosen appropriately, which leads to decisions that are too mercenary. At the brunt of these criticisms lies Reverend James Cooper, who has led the church since 2004 and defends his decisions, though says he will resign in 2015, leaving someone else to deal with this divided community.
· Trinity Church Split on How to Manage $2 Billion Legacy of a Queen [NYT]
· Trinity Church/Trinity Real Estate coverage [Curbed]