Rivers of Living Water shares space with other congregations in an Upper West Side church and needs its own home, said pastor Vanessa Brown, adding that Manning’s anti-gay message “causes trauma.”
“It’s a trigger for people that have been thrown out by churches because of their sexuality and their gender identity,” she said.
Manning is vowing to fight what he sees as a politically motivated effort to oust him from the neighborhood he has served for more than 30 years.
In an interview, he said the $1 million he has been told the church owes is nothing but a water bill. “A million-dollar water bill? Imagine that!” he said.
Court documents also show federal tax liens totaling more than $355,000 and other debts. The church had until April 2015 to pay back $1.02 million to creditors, according to court documents.
Manning insisted that the sale will not go forward.
“I don’t plan to pay up, but if I had to, I could,” he said. “I wouldn’t give this building up.”
An attorney representing the church, Daniel S. LoPresti of the firm Shaw & Binder, said the firm is taking “all necessary legal steps to protect the church from the foreclosure sale of its property.”
If the sale does take place as scheduled, there’s far from any guarantee that either the Ali Forney Center or the Rivers of Living Water Ministries would have enough for a winning bid. Harlem real estate, like the rest of New York, has been hot in recent years.
The property could be snapped up by a developer, which might also be seen as an ironic end. Much of Manning’s rhetoric is aimed at white gentrification of historically black Harlem.
At least one Harlem neighbor said she’d love to see the church go.
“We’d like this corner to be no longer a corner of hatred, but a corner of compassion,” said Stacy Parker Le Melle, who lives across the street and is helping to raise funds for the Ali Forney Center’s bid.
Le Melle said the church’s signs are hurtful to the community, especially the ones that advocate violence.
“It’s not just words,” she said. “There are people who are affected by this language. The hate speech creates a climate of terrible possibility.”
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