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Harlem Choir homeless for holidays

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The city Department of Education hit the Boys Choir of Harlem with a holiday eviction notice yesterday - severing ties with the legendary group and ordering it to vacate the public school it has called home since 1993.

A letter from the department tells the choir to close up shop Jan. 31. It also accuses founder Walter Turnbull of violating an agreement to stop managing the group after it was determined that he just shrugged off a student's complaint of sexual abuse four years ago.

"It is apparent that . . . Walter Turnbull has been running the day-to-day operations . . . and has overseen staff who have responsibility for the health and safety of students at the Choir Academy," the letter reads.

The Choir Academy of Harlem, at Madison Avenue and 127th Street, is a partnership between the city, which provides the academic curriculum, and the choir, which provides the musical training and resides free at the school.

Students are admitted by audition, but fewer than 125 out of 616 are in the choir. The city values the space used by the choir at about $550,000 annually.

Turnbull resigned as chief executive and became the choir's artistic director last year. He did so after admitting that he had kept on staff a counselor convicted of molesting a 13-year-old boy. The department had threatened to cut ties with the group if he did not step down.

But department counsel Michael Best charges in the letter that the choir failed to formally replace Turnbull and to hire a dean to oversee students' welfare.

The letter adds that financial woes forced the choir to stop training students months ago.

Phone calls seeking comment from the choir were not returned.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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