General Theological Seminary Delivers on ‘Committed to Regular Updates’ Vow Weeks Later, Upon Request

Seabury Hall, location of April 14’s meeting. | File photo by Scott Stiffler

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Weeks after a public presentation during which General Theological Seminary (GTS) leadership detailed the thinking behind a Hail Mary pass to save the sprawling Chelsea campus from financial ruin, locals find themselves left largely in the dark regarding what’s going on behind closed doors—attached to buildings located behind fences and walls.

At issue is the leaning of leadership toward leasing a portion of the property from West 20th to 21st Streets (btw. 9th & 10th Aves.) known as Chelsea Square to the School of Sacred Music (SSM), a nonprofit whose largest donor, Colin Moran, who has ties to a conservative journal (First Things) known to publish work hostile to LGBTQ+ matters and abortion rights.

Despite protestations that a 99-year lease with SSM is their best bet to reckon with $32 Million in deferred maintenance atop annual campus costs of $5 Million, locals who attended the April 14 meeting insisted there were equally viable bailout scenarios to pursue—alternatives that didn’t carry the heavy human rights baggage that comes with SSM’s ties to money man Moran. Establishing an annual fund and drawing upon the financial savvy of local residents were floated, in addition to an offer on the table from The Brodsky Organization.

That the Brodsky factor was brought up by an attendee from the community—with no prior mention from presenter (and GTS president) The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham—speaks to lack of transparency that inspired April 14’s gathering (most community members learned of the SSM matter from media reports following GTS’ announcement in a November 9, 2023 press release that it was “entering into negotiations with a Christian nonprofit to explore a long-term lease of the Close.”

Sensitive to the seeds of mistrust sown by past deeds, President Markham declared to Chelsea Community News—in an email sent three days after the April 14 presentation—that GTS is “committed to regular updates and considering the different ideas put forward by the community… We value the relationship with the neighborhood and are committed to keeping the neighborhood involved.”

Flash forward to May 13—and with no formal communication by GTS to the surrounding community for weeks, a statement arrived in response to CCNews’ request for “on-record statements regarding any aspect of the subject matter covered” at April 14’s presentation. Attributed to President Markham, it read:

“We received approximately five emails from neighbors following the meeting. We replied to each one, and each suggestion has been discussed and considered. We will provide a further update to the Chelsea community when we are in a position to do so. We remain grateful for the interest the community shows in GTS.”

Earlier this week, in a request for information on any developments since issuing that statement, a GTS rep noted, “There is no further update at this time” while vowing to “let you know when we do have something.”

CCNews will continue to follow this story as it develops. To read our report based on attending the April 14 presentation, click here.


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