(Editor's note: The Albany Diocese has agreed to have another structural engineering firm examine St. Patrick's Church in Watervliet. The sale of the closed and deteriorating church to the Nigro Companies has been pending for some time; since it would cost $4 million just to stabilize the building, the buyer plans to raze the church to build a Price Chopper supermarket. A group called Citizens for St. Patrick's has vehemently opposed the move and asked for access to the property to do another assessment. This response from the Diocese was sent to Citizens for St. Patrick's and to Rev. L. Edward Deimeke, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet; the Nigro Companies; the Watervliet City Council and local media.)

August 15, 2012

Eileen Anderson and Christine Bulmer
Citizens for St. Patrick's
5 Ball Place
Watervliet, NY 12189

Dear Ms. Anderson and Ms. Bulmer:

I am responding to your letter of August 2, 2012, received on August 6, 2012, in which you requested that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany grant permission to John G. Waite to visit St. Patrick's Church in Watervliet so that he can produce an "independent and unbiased assessment" of the building.

Mr. Waite has already produced such an assessment. He examined the church edifice in 1981 when the firm with which he was associated was engaged by St. Patrick's parish to prepare a full structural assessment. His firm, in turn, engaged three engineering firms to assist in the evaluation process.

"The need for this overall evaluation," said the report prepared by Mr. Waite and his firm, "was brought about by areas of visible deterioration of existing masonry at certain locations. A closer look revealed severe cases of mortar failure and other serious deterioration of exterior building materials."

Mr. Waite and his colleagues reported: "At first glance, the condition of the building appears satisfactory; however, closer investigation indicated major areas of serious decay requiring considerable maintenance and repair if it is to survive the deterioration so common to buildings of this type."

The ongoing deterioration of the structure was confirmed in 2005, 2009, and again in 2012 by other independent, impartial professional architects and engineers who are highly respected in their fields and who have no interest whatsoever in jeopardizing their reputations or licenses by submitting reports that were biased or partial in any way. As they and we have said, the question is not whether the church could be stabilized, rehabilitated and made usable. The question is at what cost. The answer requires the expertise not of an architect, but of a structural engineer.

As you know, the Catholic Community of Watervliet and Green Island already has engaged independent architects and engineers, just as was done with Mr. Waite's firm. Those architects and engineers provided an independent and unbiased assessment, just as Mr. Waite and his firm did. They estimated the cost to stabilize the church and make it safe and habitable at approximately $4 million even before the necessary further investments to renovate the building for an alternative use. We believe these cost estimates are realistic and reliable. Indeed, they were significant contributing factors that helped form the basis for the decision to close the church and to enter into a contract to sell the property to the Nigro Companies. The parish has an obligation to honor that contract and will do so.

To ensure there is no question about the reliability of the existing estimates, and in the interest of good-faith cooperation, the Diocese and the parish are willing to engage yet another structural engineering firm to evaluate the reasonableness of the recent cost estimates for stabilization, rehabilitation and repair provided by the parish's engineering firm. We have advised John Nigro of this approach and he has consented to it.

Listed below are three reputable engineering firms:

* C.T. Male Associates of Latham

* Zaremba Engineering of Troy

* Klepper, Hahn and Hyatt of Syracuse

We invite Citizens for St. Patrick's to recommend any one of the firms. Assuming the recommended firm is available and can fulfill the task expeditiously, we will engage the firm to make the evaluation and issue a report to the Watervliet City Council. The Diocese and parish will pay the firm's fee.

Should you wish to pursue this approach, kindly let us know in writing together with your recommendation as to the firm no later than August 20, 2012.

Noel A. Olsen
Director of Real Property