New York News

Vandalism Hits Manhattan Church Where a Violent Slasher Struck Weeks Earlier

Immaculate Conception Church is at the intersection of First Avenue and East 14th Street, a few steps away from an L train station. This is the front of the church
Immaculate Conception Church is at the intersection of First Avenue and East 14th Street, a few steps away from an L train station. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

EAST VILLAGE — A Manhattan church once again faced criminal activity and damage after a vandal destroyed a statue of Jesus on President’s Day, just weeks after a church worker was slashed across the face.

The statue of Jesus inside Immaculate Conception Church was knocked to the ground following an outburst by an unknown individual, causing damage that will cost an estimated thousands of dollars to repair. 

According to the NYPD, the individual entered the East Village church on Monday, Feb. 19, and engaged in criminal mischief after being asked to leave around 10:45 a.m. Since it was a federal holiday, Immaculate Conception closed after the 10 a.m. Mass service. 

When the outburst occurred, only a few people were remaining in the building, praying the Rosary. A dispute involving the unknown individual and some parishioners inside the church led to the crime, according to the NYPD.

The individual knocked over a bookshelf after being told he had to leave the church. He then toppled the statue of Jesus — located next to the church’s exit — to the ground. Damage to the right side of the statue, alongside its robes, could be seen days after the attack. The entire left hand of the statue was destroyed as well. Church officials said they plan to replace the damaged statue in the future.

The man was reportedly sleeping in the church when he was told it was closing. No one was harmed in the outburst, and the individual fled on foot. As of Feb. 21, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing according to the NYPD.

Crime in the 9th Precinct, which encompasses Immaculate Conception, is reportedly decreasing. Police data shows an overall 10.45% decrease in crime since last year. Only felony assaults and robberies have had a slight uptick in occurrence. However, local residents contend violent crimes are becoming increasingly common in that area, with the church only a few feet from the First Avenue subway station. 

Furthermore, this is the second outburst involving the church recently, the first being a slashing attack on a church caretaker on Jan. 21.  

That victim, John Mach, was cut along his left jaw with a box cutter by an assailant after Mach confronted him about urinating between two nearby parked cars. He sustained 16 stitches from his lower jaw to his ear.

A 28-year-old man has been arrested for the attack and is facing attempted murder charges, the New York Post reported on Friday. A resident of a men’s shelter in the Bowery, Roberto Ortiz allegedly attacked Mach from behind before escaping on foot. He is also facing charges of criminal possession of a weapon, assault, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and false personation.

To augment local police presence, Immaculate Conception employs additional security for both the inside the church as well as surrounding it. According to the New York Post, an anonymous parish employee said that police are going to “do a lot of extra walking around on 14th Street” in the wake of the incidents.