Fr. Richard Gorman, a Catholic priest who served as Community Board 12 chairman for more than two decades, has passed.
Fr. Gorman, who was 63-year-old when he died on Tuesday, January 23, also served as a Bronx Chamber of Commerce board member, a Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts board member, and took up numerous community causes and fights with City Hall during decades of volunteer service.
He was part of the Prison Apostolate for the Archdiocese of New York where he worked with inmates, a long-time Cardinal Spellman High School teacher and a parish priest at St. Barnabas Church.
Former assemblyman and councilman, Steven Kaufman, a long time friend, said that Fr. Gorman grew up in Co-op City and was an intern in his City Council office, before the young man decided to join the priesthood.
“He was a brilliant man whose only concern was to help people in the Bronx, help public institutions and help individual people,” said Kaufman. “He was involved in many different aspects of borough life and was not afraid to take on a fight.”
Like Kaufman, Fr. Gorman was an attorney, and his friend said that the priest was most times courteous, but when necessary, could be adversarial.
Fr. Gorman had superb writing abilities that helped him wield his pen mightily, said Kaufman.
He said he remembers attending Fr. Gorman’s ordination on November 6, 1982, around the same time he was appointed to CB 12.
It was Fr. Gorman who took on pornographic businesses in CB 12 in the 1990s and helped negotiate a better location for the Croton Water Filtration Plant that friend and commentator Gary Axelbank remembers, the BronxNet talk show host said.
Axelbank said he is putting together a tribute to Gorman from a dozen appearances that the community activist made on his Bronx Talk program.
When it came time to represent community interests before government agencies and other entities, Fr. Gorman was front and center, said Axelbank.
Axelbank added that Fr. Gorman respected his Jewish faith, reaching out during important holidays.
“Fr. Gorman was such a part of the fabric of our community,” Joseph Kelleher, chairman of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce said.
“He was a great supporter of small business and attended all of our events. He provided wonderful, inspiring invocations setting the tone and letting us know there is a spiritual side to being successful,” Kelleher added.
“Whatever the issue, whether he supported or opposed it, he always fought vigorously,” said Bob Kappstatter, a veteran journalist at the Daily News and Bronx Times Reporter.
Kappstatter said Fr. Gorman was a friend to police officers, a beat he covered, and the veteran reporter said that it was a shame the priest was never made an official NYPD chaplain, though Kappstatter said he was a chaplain with the MTA police.
The person who filled Fr. Gorman’s shoes as CB 12 chairman, William Hall, a 30-year member of the board, said that CB 12 substituted a memorial service for its regularly scheduled monthly general board meeting.
Hall said that Fr. Gorman was different from most priests in that he was very politically active.
“Most priests have a parish, but the community board was really his life,” said Hall, adding he was a personal friend.
John Doyle of City Island recalled when Fr. Gorman helped the City Island community in their fight for a new bridge design, a battle the community eventually won, said Doyle.
Fr. Gorman was CB 12 chairman from 1990 to 2016, mostly working with former district manger Carmen Rosa, but was forced to step down after allegations arose that he sexually abused a 13-year-old male student more than 30 years ago.
He was fighting vigorously to clear his name, according to multiple sources.
Kappstatter said it was a shame so many friends abandoned Fr. Gorman when the accusations came to light.
“It’s a shame that Fr. Rich couldn’t live to see himself vindicated,” he said. “He was eager to clear his name and be allowed once again to perform the sacraments and his other priestly duties.”
The Archdiocese of New York’s investigation was not concluded at the time of Fr. Gorman’s untimely death, and as such, while he was forbidden from acting as a priest or presenting himself as one, he was buried as a priest, stated Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese spokesman.
Fr. Gorman is survived by his mother and four brothers.