Statement of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and St. Nicholas Church.
New York – On February 14, 2011, St. Nicholas Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as other agencies and individuals, in order to foster the rebuilding at Ground Zero of the only house of worship destroyed by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Parish and the Archdiocese would have preferred to rebuild the Church without litigation. However, they have been unable to do so since the Port Authority renounced a long-standing agreement with the Church to rebuild at Ground Zero, seized the Church’s land, barred the Church from access to it, and has refused to talk or meet with the Church or the Archdiocese. This legal action has been taken not only as a last resort to restore the property and rebuilding rights of St. Nicholas Church, but also to fulfill the common vision of civil and church authorities that the Church be rebuilt as a place of prayer and meditation at Ground Zero for all people.
While the Port Authority has claimed publicly that it is currently in discussions with the Archdiocese in order to foster the rebuilding effort, in fact, in March of 2009 it summarily disavowed its agreement with the Archdiocese to rebuild St. Nicholas at 130 Liberty Street, a site chosen by the Port Authority, which is adjacent to the original location. Since that time, the Port Authority has rebuffed all efforts by the Church to work with it regarding the rebuilding.
Contrary to working cooperatively with the Archdiocese and the Parish, a posture which had prevailed between 9/11 and the Port Authority’s abrupt turnabout in March 2009, the Port Authority—without permission, notice, or any legal justification whatsoever—has sent its bulldozers onto both the land still owned by the Church at its original site at 155 Cedar Street, and the land provided to the Church at 130 Liberty Street pursuant to its agreement with the Port Authority. The Port Authority has conducted extensive excavation and other construction work that has kept the Church off of its own property, and has rendered both sites unbuildable by the Church without substantial remedial work.
The Parish and the Archdiocese hope that through this lawsuit, just and fair rulings will be made allowing for the prompt re-construction of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero, not only as a church serving its flock, but also as a greater ministry bringing peace, reconciliation and a sacred space of recollection and remembrance for all people visiting Ground Zero.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) expressed support for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and St. Nicholas Church as the latter parties announced today that they filed a lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in order to foster rebuilding St. Nicholas Church, the only house of worship destroyed by the September 11 terrorist attacks, announced Supreme President Nicholas A. Karacostas.
“It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but I’m afraid bureaucracy knows no other way,” Karacostas said. “The Archdiocese and the Church made many attempts to meet with the Port Authority only to be met with silence. We are supportive of their decision to pursue litigation.”
Karacostas added, “We maintain it remains unacceptable that the Port Authority has failed to meet its commitment and resume negotiations with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to rebuild St. Nicholas at 130 Liberty Street, a site chosen by the Port Authority.”
AHEPA embarked on a petition campaign that provided more than 20,000 signatures of individuals who called on the Port Authority to honor its commitment and meet with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Supreme President Karacostas has also requested a meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss the issue.