Six months after the Diocese of Rockville Centre shuttered McGann-Mercy High School and nearly three months after it told parents a $10 million deal for the campus had been finalized, no sale has taken place and the diocese won’t provide information about the fate of the site.
“The Diocese of Rockville Centre is not at liberty to disclose the name of any potential buyer for this property,” diocesan communications director Sean Dolan said in an email last week.
Asked if there is sale pending, Dolan replied with the same statement and declined further comment.
Parents remain perplexed by the actions of the diocese. After the diocese shocked the McGann-Mercy community with the announcement in March that the East End’s only Catholic high school would close its doors in June, parents, alumni and friends of the high school formed an organization with the aim of establishing an independent Catholic high school on the Riverhead campus.
Bob Terry and Shawn Leonard, representing Friends of East End Catholic Education, met with Bishop John Barres in April to make an initial pitch for an independently run Catholic high school. They left with the impression that the bishop was open to the idea, a group spokesperson said after that meeting.
The group set to work developing a “sustainable business plan” to show the endeavor could succeed and were hopeful they’d be able to open the new school in September. But the group had trouble getting a second meeting scheduled and ultimately did not succeed in getting a second audience with the bishop.
Terry and Leonard on Aug. 13 met instead with the diocese’s chief financial officer Thomas Doodian and its chief operating officer and general counsel Thomas Renker, who informed them that the diocese had already finalized a deal to sell the property for over $10 million two weeks earlier.
“We were shocked and dismayed by the news,” Terry said in an interview this week.
He and the rest of the McGann-Mercy community — indeed, the town at large — waited to learn the identity of the buyer and the fate of the campus. Rampant speculation focused on Northwell Health, since Peconic Bay Medical Center’s main campus adjoins the McGann-Mercy property.
But Northwell Health denies any involvement.
“We have had no discussions with the diocese about the acquisition of the McGann-Mercy site, and have not been presented with any proposals,” said Northwell vice president and spokesperson Terry Lynam.
“Like everyone else in the community, we are waiting to hear more about the diocese’s plans for the property,” Lynam said.
The site is not listed on the market for sale, according to local real estate brokers who deal in commercial properties.
“We haven’t heard anything on it at all,” Isaac Israel of Richmond Realty said.
No plans or applications for the now-vacant site have been filed with the town, according to town officials.
“Some of us feel that the diocese said the property was sold just to kill the idea of an independent Catholic high school,” said one parent who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They wanted McGann-Mercy students to enroll at St. John the Baptist,” she said, referring to a diocesan high school in West Islip.
Terry acknowledged that thought has crossed his mind, too. “It’s very disappointing and very challenging to us as Catholics,” Terry said.
Bishop McGann-Mercy was founded as Mercy High School in 1956 by the Sisters of Mercy. It was housed in a temporary building until its building on Ostrander Avenue was completed and dedicated in 1962.
The school had a total enrollment of 365 in grades seven to 12 in its last year. The diocese said in March it had provided subsidies of $16.3 million to the McGann-Mercy from 2007 through the 2016-2017 and expected to provide an additional $2.3 million of support to the school in the 2017/2018 fiscal year.
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