Former New York adviser, founder of SEBCO accused of child sexual abuse – Bronx Times
Sign up for our PoliticsNY newsletter for the latest coverage and to stay informed about the 2021 election in your district and across New York
Louis Gigante, a former priest turned New York city councilor who is credited with rebuilding the Hunts Point section of the Bronx in the 1980s, is accused of sexually abusing a minor while at the St. Athanasius Church in Longwood, according to recent court documents.
According to documents filed with the Bronx County Clerk on May 25, an anonymous “John Doe” alleges Gigante sexually assaulted him from 1976 to 1977 when he was nine years old and attending Gigante Bible study at St. Athanasius Church.
The man, estimated to be 50, alleges that during this time, Gigante forced him to perform oral sex during Bible study sessions.
“The archdiocese knew or should have known that Father Gigante was sexually abusing children and / or had the propensity to do so,” the statement said. “The defendants, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church knew or should have known of the abuse Mr. Doe and other young children were suffering at the hands of their clergy.”
St. Athanasius Church officials declined to comment on “a pending legal matter” and attempts by the Bronx Times to reach Gigante to comment on the allegations were unsuccessful.
Gigante is one of 177 names recently disclosed in a wave of lawsuits against parishioners and officials linked to the Archdiocese of New York through the 2019 Child Victims Act, which gave a one-year window to survivors of child sexual abuse to file court cases that had already been prescribed or expired.
Having already been extended twice, the last time extension in the law expires on August 14.
In the last legislative session, state lawmakers discussed the Adult Survivors Act, which creates a window of retrospection similar to the Child Victims Act, but for those who have been sexually abused to adulthood and who cannot initiate civil proceedings.
In a statement to the Bronx Times on Wednesday, New York law firm Curis Law, which represents the anonymous plaintiff, hopes future legislation can continue to remove the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse.
“We commend all child survivors of sexual abuse who come forward and demand justice,” the statement said. “It is unfortunate that the August 14, 2021 deadline is coming to an end soon and looks to New York State to implement new legislation to remove time restrictions, as the trauma and suffering of these survivors are eternal. “
Gigante was the pastor of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when she was a teenager, which is documented in her memoir “My Beloved World”.
Gigante is best known, however, for his work in economic and community development in the South Bronx and his involvement in New York politics.
Gigante founded the Southeast Bronx Community Organization (SEBCO) and the Simpson Street Development Association in 1968 and 1969, respectively. In 1971, Gigante, while still a priest, founded the Bruckner Democratic Club, then served as a Bronx city councilor for two terms after being elected in 1973.
He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1980, but Gigante’s fingerprints are all over the Hunts Points section of the Bronx.
In the 1980s, the nonprofit housing group SEBCO developed nearly 2,000 new or renovated housing units for low-income families in the Hunts Points area, seen as oppressed by national experts and the media.
However, a four-month investigation by The Village Voice in 2007 found that Gigante and its publicly funded developments in the South Bronx were $ 50 million investments that benefited companies owned or affiliated with leading members of the Genoese organized crime family.
Between 1978 and 2004, SEBCO registered 18 companies, including six not-for-profit organizations and 12 for-profit companies. Gigante is listed as CEO of five of the companies and chairman of most nonprofits.
In July 2017, Gigante was honored for “rebuilding large parts of the South Bronx” by elected officials during a Family Day celebration outside his old church in St. Athanasius.
Law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, a firm that advocates for survivors of sexual abuse, says more than 1,700 alleged perpetrators are linked to the Catholic Diocese of New York.
About 962 lawsuits have already been filed under the state’s Child Victims Act involving the Archdiocese from New York.
“Often when a survivor makes allegations against an alleged perpetrator, more survivors are often present and may come forward,” said a representative from Anderson & Associates PA, a company that advocates for survivors of sexual abuse. “Sadly, so many survivors feel lonely and when they see another survivor from the same place where there has been abuse, or mistreated by the same alleged perpetrator, it can spur those survivors to come forward and seek justice.