For over a decade The Cloudsplitter Foundation has been working with Paul Smith’s College (PSC) and the diocese of Ogdensburg to secure the abandoned and beautiful St. Gabriel’s church that sits next to the PSC campus.
The property on which the church sits was deeded to the diocese in 1896 by Paul Smith himself so his catholic employees would have a place of worship. The deed specified that if the property should cease to be used for religious purposes it would revert to Paul Smith’s. The diocese removed all religious materials and stopped using the church in 2015.
Negotiations to secure the church as a non-denominational retreat for PSC students then were unsuccessful. The diocese insisted that the building could never be used for even non-denominational religious or quasi-religious purposes, such as student weddings or memorial services, which was exactly the use that PSC planned.
In 2017 when we learned that the Diocese of Ogdensburg was planning to destroy the building, the Cloudsplitter Foundation entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with PSC giving the Foundation permission to act on PSC’s behalf. We believed that under the 1896 deed the property had reverted to PSC ownership and offered to take on this fight to save the church.
The diocese rejected our attempt to secure the title and we ended up in court. The NY Supreme Court (the second-highest court in NY) ruled against us and for the diocese, so we authorized our law firm, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, to file an appeal. Whiteman Osterman & Hanna’s Appeals Court specialist, Rob Rosborough, filed that appeal last February. Oral arguments took place this past August, and the video of that testimony is linked here. On September 17th, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled unanimously in our favor. A link to the court’s ruling is attached here.
On October 27th Cloudsplitter Foundation’s Chair, Lee Keet, turned the keys to the church over to Dr. Jon Strauss, PSC’s President.
We will now work closely with PSC to devise a plan to convert the building for student use.