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What the Daily News Left Out of its Story on Scientology in Harlem

We were amused to see the word “EXCLUSIVE” slapped onto the title of yesterday’s story in the Daily News about Scientology building a community center in Harlem.

Back in 2007, the Village Voice, where we worked, was one of several publications to write stories about Scientology spending millions to buy some properties on 125th Street, saying that it would open a new community center in “a couple of years.”

Yesterday, the “Exclusive” news in the Daily News was that a chapel and cafe are still a year away from opening (or so church spokespeople claim), and the community center is even farther from completion.

That’s news?

Well, actually it is news — if by news, you mean that after six years and untold millions in renovations, the Church of Scientology still isn’t really even close to opening its new center in Harlem. But that’s not the thrust of the Daily News item, which cites the Harlem development as “part of a new effort to expand the sect’s base from Hollywood to urban areas.”


Well, there is truth in that statement. The Harlem project follows a similar attempt to engage the black community of the Los Angeles area with its 2011 “Ideal Org” and community center in Inglewood, California.

And we also have to give the Daily News reporters credit for quoting Operation Clambake’s Andreas Heldal-Lund and Carnegie Mellon University professor Dave Touretzky, who each contributed skepticism about the Harlem project’s chances for success.

But not mentioned in the story is that there’s already a Scientology outpost in Harlem, on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, between 141st and 142nd Streets. The storefront showed up recently in a humorous video featuring a man who questioned the reported ties between Scientology and the Nation of Islam. He got a fairly chilly reception from the Harlem mission workers.

We also found it interesting that the Daily News story provides support for the notion of Scientology going after a more diverse membership by mentioning that the church is working on a new facility in Chicago.

…Which we’ve been meaning to say something about, so this may be as good a time as any.

Sindy Fagen used to be a member of the Chicago Org, and lately, she’s been filling us in on what a disaster the Chicago “Ideal Org” project is turning out to be. In February 2007, Scientology spent a reported $4 million for the historic Artcraft Building at 650 S. Clark St and then, Sindy tells us, rapidly pushed out the building’s paying tenants.

The church was in a big hurry to turn the Artcraft into one of Scientology’s “Ideal” renovation projects, and told reporters that it would be transformed and opened for business by summer 2008.

Instead, after its tenants moved out, the building sat empty and crumbling, and the city of Chicago is losing its patience with the church.

After repeated orders to fix numerous problems that continue to go unrepaired, the city in June filed a lawsuit against Scientology, asking the Cook County Circuit Court to hit the church with a fine of $2,000 “for each day said violations have existed and/or exist.”

Ouch! Sindy tells us a hearing is scheduled for October 9 in the case. We’ve left several messages with the city’s attorneys hoping for more information.

And let us add one last thing about Scientology’s efforts to recruit in black neighborhoods. When the Inglewood facility opened, who can forget David Miscavige’s glowing words about the sort of people he was hoping to attract…

“Talk about a permeating and penetrating culture. Or to put it another way, most white folks wouldn’t have a clue what it means to be cool if it weren’t for Black America.”

Yep. Just as awkward today as when he said it in 2011.


What Leah Remini Will Want to Avoid on Dancing With The Stars

After TMZ broke the news yesterday that Leah Remini will be appearing in the 17th season of DWTS, many commenters immediately wondered if it was some sort of payback or competition with Kirstie Alley, who has appeared twice in the series. After the news broke last month that Remini was leaving the Church of Scientology, Alley went medieval on her former friend through Twitter. Is DWTS Leah’s chance to answer back in a manner short of speaking publicly about her defection?

One thing’s for sure: Leah will want to avoid this sort of tumble that Kirstie famously suffered in 2011…



More on the Arborcide of Clearwater

In case you didn’t see it in our comments yesterday, several of our readers sent complaints to Clearwater, Florida mayor George N. Cretekos about the Church of Scientology’s illegal removal of two healthy live-oak trees to make way for a tent south of its Super Power Building. The mayor sent out identical replies to several Bunkerites, and here’s the text of his message…

Because of your interest in the Church of Scientology’s plans for the opening of its new “Flag Building,” I regret, as you, that two trees have been stealthily removed. The City of Clearwater was attempting to work with representatives of the Church of Scientology to ensure that any action taken would be in compliance with city codes. Unfortunately, another approach was found to be more convenient.

This disrespect for the City of Clearwater’s ordinances and environment is most troubling, and I am grateful that the city’s other institutions set a better example. As much as I would like to penalize the Church of Scientology for this action, I doubt that any court would uphold such action because the current laws of the city must be applied equally for all residents, businesses, and institutions. Consequently, the city will have to review its current codes to consider increasing the fines or applying some other penalty for future violations of the city’s tree ordinances by anyone.

Finally, please understand that the City of Clearwater remains committed to the “Tree City” program. It is unfair to state that the city is not deserving of that title because one institution cut down a tree, any more than it would be fair to take the designation away from the city because your neighbor cut down a tree without a permit.

With best wishes and warm, personal regards, I am


George N. Cretekos
Mayor, City of Clearwater


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 29, 2013 at 07:00

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