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(Updates with comment from archdiocese starting in sixth paragraph.)
Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America agreed to rebuild a lower Manhattan church destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, ending litigation over the site.
The agreement, signed today by the Port Authority, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and St. Nicholas Parish, allows for the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church at 130 Liberty Street, the authority said in a statement.
Negotiations between the church and the authority broke down in 2009 and the archdiocese sued in February in federal court in Manhattan, accusing the bistate agency of reneging on an agreement to rebuild.
A 4,100-square-foot church with a nondenominational bereavement center that will serve as a “venue for interfaith dialogue” will be constructed, the authority said. The church was founded by Greek immigrants in 1916 and began services at its 1,200-square-foot location on Cedar Street in 1922.
The agreement is the result of a four-month independent engineering study conducted as a result of settlement talks between the authority and the archdiocese mediated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, the authority said.
“We will again light many candles in the new St. Nicholas church and remember those who were lost to us, and those heroes who so nobly sacrificed their lives,” Archbishop Demetrios said in a statement.
The study found that structural issues could be resolved that would allow the church to be located on Liberty Street “at significantly reduced cost” from the original agreement, which called for the authority to give the church $20 million to defray the cost of construction.
The church will exchange its land on Cedar Street for the rights to the Liberty Street parcel, with no payments from the authority, and the litigation will be terminated upon approval of the agency’s board, the authority said.
The new building will likely not rise higher than three stories, said Mark Arey, a spokesman for the archdiocese, in a telephone interview. The church has raised “a couple of million” for construction, and “there won’t be any problem raising money to rebuild this church,” Arey said.
“We are very grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in helping to bring us all back to the table,” he said. “Of course the litigation is over, there’s no need for litigation. We have a mutual agreement.”
The case is Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas of the Downtown Part of the City of New York v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11-cv-0985, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
--Editors: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn
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