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Church Destroyed on 9/11 May Sue Port Authority to Get Its Land Back

By Julie Shapiro on December 3, 2010 12:04pm 

Archbishop Demetrios, second from the left, led a service in honor of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero in 2006. The archbishop will return to the site for another service this Sunday.
Archbishop Demetrios, second from the left, led a service in honor of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero in 2006. The archbishop will return to the site for another service this Sunday.
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AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed on 9/11, may sue the Port Authority for the right to rebuild their house of worship, a church spokesman said Friday.

Negotiations over how and where to rebuild the Cedar Street church stalled nearly two years ago, and the two sides have not spoken since.

In the meantime, the Port Authority has commandeered the church’s land to build an underground parking garage and loading dock for the World Trade Center.

"The site of St. Nicholas, which is the property of the church, has been used by the Port Authority for over a year, and we never authorized them to do that," said Mark Arey, spokesman for the church. "The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has looked at legal [action] very seriously."

Before the negotiations broke off, the Port Authority offered the church a larger plot of land farther east and $20 million to rebuild, in exchange for the original plot. But the archdiocese was worried about the timing of the money transfers, said Arey, the archdiocese’s ecumenical officer.

Concerned that the underground garage would fall behind schedule, the Port Authority broke off talks with the church in early 2009 and moved ahead with the construction.

Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said two months ago that he planned to restart negotiations with the church soon, and a Port spokesman said Friday the agency recently sent a letter to the church.

But Arey said none of the church’s leaders or anyone at the archdiocese had received a letter.

"I don’t know where they sent it,” Arey said. “There has been absolute silence."

The Port Authority declined to provide a copy of the letter to DNAinfo.

"We have had contact with them, and we are confident that we can reach an agreement," said Steve Coleman, a Port spokesman.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials have expressed support for the church in the past, and on Tuesday, City Councilman Peter Vallone, who represents Astoria, introduced a resolution urging the Port Authority to meet with the church.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood just south of the World Trade Center and was destroyed on 9/11
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood just south of the World Trade Center and was destroyed on 9/11
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Flickr/darkfoxprime

The resolution was referred to the Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, but Councilwoman Margaret Chin, the committee chairwoman, has not taken a position on it or scheduled a hearing date, a spokesman said.

To commemorate the church and rally support for the rebuilding, the archdiocese will hold a Vespers service at the World Trade Center site this Sunday afternoon, one day before the feast of St. Nicholas, the church’s namesake.

Archbishop Demetrios of America will lead the service in Greek and English, and Arey said he expects many of the original parishioners to return, along with hundreds of supporters and family members of 9/11 victims.

"For our community, it’s important to be at Ground Zero," Arey said. "You can see where the church was."

Both Arey and Coleman said they hoped to reach an agreement soon on the church’s future.

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