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Deal Reached to Rebuild St. Nicholas Church at World Trade Center

By Julie Shapiro | October 14, 2011 5:36pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed on 9/11, will rise again at the World Trade Center site, thanks to a new agreement announced Friday.

The deal — which envisions a 4,100-square-foot church at 130 Liberty St. just east of the new Liberty Park — ends a years-long dispute between the Port Authority and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America over where and how to rebuild the house of worship.

"We lost St. Nicholas Church in the destruction of Sept. 11 and for too long its future has been uncertain," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who mediated the agreement, said in a statement.

"Now we are finally returning this treasured place of reflection to where it belongs."

The settlement moves the church from its original Cedar Street site to a new, larger site to the east on Liberty Street, where the tiny parish will be able to more than triple in size.

Still, the new St. Nicholas will be about 50 percent smaller than the massive church envisioned several years ago, which would have been much more expensive to build and harder to structurally support because it sits on top of Port Authority infrastructure.

Under the agreement, the Port Authority will pay for the church's below-ground infrastructure costs and the church will pay for the above ground construction. But the PA will not pay the church $20 million toward the construction of the new building, as the agency had planned to do under an earlier proposal.

The Port Authority is using the church's former Cedar Street site to build the new Liberty Park.

Father Mark Arey, spokesman for the church, said he was "very pleased" to see the agreement signed by both sides on Friday.

"It's a win-win for everyone," Arey said.

The dispute between the church and the Port Authority had worn on for years and culminated in the church suing the PA last February.

At the time, Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said the church could not rebuild on the Liberty Street site, because it would delay construction on the World Trade Center's underground loading dock and parking garage.

However, at Cuomo's direction, a team led by construction expert Peter Lehrer conducted a four-month study and determined that the church could rise on Liberty Street without holding up surrounding projects.

"I am delighted that we were able to find a way to rebuild the Church with no impact on the construction schedule at the World Trade Center," Ward said in a statement.

The Port Authority will begin building the church's underground infrastructure immediately as part of the adjacent Vehicle Security Center, scheduled to be complete in 2013, a PA spokesman said.

Once the church is built up to ground level, it should take less than a year to finish the above ground portion, Arey said.

The church will also include a nondenominational bereavement center.

"Our pledge is to be a witness for all New Yorkers," Archbishop Demetrios of America said in a statement, "that freedom of conscience and the fundamental human right of free religious expression will always shine forth in the resurrected St. Nicholas Church.”