Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The owners of St. Nicholas church in Lower Manhattan, the parish destroyed on 9/11, are now suing the Port Authority, claiming it did not fulfill a deal to rebuild the church.
St. Nicholas Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America are claiming that in 2008 the Port Authority agreed to rebuild the church at a new location near the old site but have "renounced a long-standing agreement." The church said excavation was conducted on church property without permission.
The lawsuit claims that in 2009 the Port Authority abruptly cut off all talks in an e-mail. The church said they still own the property and air rights at 155 Cedar Street, where the 85-year old church once stood. Last summer, the Port Authority uncovered an 18th century ship at the same site.
In a statement, the Port Authority said in 2008, after eight months of negotiations with the church, its demands were too great and that the Port Authority had to make a practical decision “to move on or risk further delaying the entire World Trade Center project.”
The church said this is a major red herring.
“We’ve never said, 'No' to their demands, and they agreed to all of the stipulations and we’ve done all that. They called off negotiations. They cut it off,” said church spokesman Father Michael Arey.
Arey said the church had been open to all negotiations with the Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center site, but the Port Authority said the church refused to meet with them.
The church, founded by Greek immigrants in 1916, had held services from 1922 until 2001 at the four-story building on Cedar Street. Although the church was destroyed, no employees of the church were injured in the attacks. After the attacks, the church and former Governor George Pataki pledged to rebuild the church.
Parishioners now attend St Constantine & Helen Cathedral in Brooklyn. Father Arey said the new church would be more of an interfaith sanctuary then a practicing church.