FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A sandstone wall that has stood on Trinity Place for more than 200 years is in danger of collapsing.
The block-long wall, which supports Trinity Church's graveyard, is bulging in places and will undergo $1.8 million in repairs beginning next week, said Tricia Atallah, the church's director of mission properties and businesses.
"The wall needs immediate attention," Atallah said Monday. "Our structural engineer felt the wall could be perfectly fine for the next year or two [but] bulging is not a good sign."
The church built the wall in the late 18th century to hold up the churchyard and prevent it from sliding down the steep slope from Broadway to Trinity Place. But the soil never drained properly, and the wet dirt put more and more pressure on the historical wall, until finally it began to shift westward, Atallah said.
"The wall was never reinforced," Atallah said. "It's literally a pile of stones."
The six-month restoration project, which will move from north to south, will install a new drainage system for the churchyard and will reinforce the wall with steel beams driven deep into the ground, Atallah said.
In a construction advisory, the Department of Transportation referred to the work as "urgent."
During the project, conservators will also carefully tag and remove all the stones along Trinity Place, cleaning them and returning them to their proper place. The Rector Street side of the wall will not be touched.
"The wall is going to look no different than it looks now, at the end of the day," Atallah said.
The trickiest part of the job will be driving the new steel beams without disturbing any of the dozens of burial vaults in Trinity Churchyard, where famous New Yorkers including Alexander Hamilton, naval inventor Robert Fulton and businessman John Jacob Astor are interred.
The headstones in the graveyard mark only a handful of the actual burial sites, so the church did radar testing to try to find the hidden vaults. But some vaults are likely too deep to show up — until workers start digging.
"We're a little bit playing it by ear," Atallah said. "There are all kinds of surprises under there."
The graveyard will remain open to the public during the construction, but the sidewalk on the east side of Trinity Place between Rector and Thames streets will be closed, and the bus stops on the block will be relocated, Atallah and city DOT said. The city plans to add a temporary sidewalk on the east side of Trinity Place during the construction, Atallah said.
In addition to repairing the historical wall, Trinity Church also just launched a $2.2 million project to restore its spire and a $980,000 project to repair its roof. All the work is scheduled to happen this year.