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Construction underway for Greek Orthodox church destroyed in 9/11 attacks

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Construction will resume Monday on the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Lower Manhattan, a historic house of worship which was destroyed in the devastating 9/11 attacks.

“Monday’s going to be a very emotional day. A powerful day,” said Michael Psaros, vice chairman of The Friends of St. Nicholas, which formed in January to get the project back on the right track after years of scandal and mismanagement.

“Another powerful symbol to the world of the resurrection of all of Ground Zero and New York City.”

Named for the patron saint of sailors, the original St. Nicholas opened its doors on Cedar Street in 1916, quickly becoming the first stopping point for Greek immigrants after they left Ellis Island. It served the community for 85 years, retaining a quaint, old-world charm as skyscrapers rose around it.

The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine still under construction as part of the World Trade Center redevelopment. Photo: Stefan Jeremiah/The New York Post

When the South Tower of the World Trade Center came crashing down on New York’s darkest day, it took St. Nicholas with it.

The New York Post reports that the reconstruction of St Nicholas was immediately brought into conversation by then-Gov. George Pataki and leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, yet was met with large obstacles.

Largely, rampant cost overruns amounting to millions of dollars, alog with legal squabbles between the church and the Port Authority, saw the rebuilding be delayed indefinitely, until now.

By January 2020, the church sat half-finished, but untouched for two years with the coffers bare.

Then, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and PA head Rick Cotton met with Archbishop Elpidophoros, Father Alex Karloutsos and the leaders of The Friends of St. Nicholas — Psaros, Chairman Dennis Mehiel and vice-chairman John Catsimatidis — and resolved to get the project done.

“We lost a tremendous, great religious institution [in] what happened on 9/11,” said Catsimatidis, a billionaire grocery-store mogul and former New York mayoral candidate eyeing another run in 2021. “[Reopening will be] A victory for all New Yorkers.”

The leaders undertook a fundraising drive that, in just 90 days, amassed the $45 million necessary to complete the project, including a $10 million donation from the family of late real-estate mogul and Los Angeles Chargers owner Alex Spanos.

Construction was set to resume in the spring — “then COVID hit,” said Psaros, grounding all non-essential projects statewide to a halt for months.

The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is still under construction.
The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is still under construction. (Google Maps)

It will begin once again on Monday when a crane lowers the first skylight into the church’s dome, in a ceremony presided over by Cuomo and Archbishop Elpidophoros, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

“St. Nicholas … will be, for the Greek-American community, our Parthenon and our St. Sophia in America,” said Psaros. “It will be a powerful symbol of the triumph of the principals of the American ideal, with respect to individual and religious freedom.”

The aim is to have the new St. Nicholas open on September 11, 2021 — the 20th anniversary of the attacks — as a sign of respect to New Yorkers of all faiths.

“It is the struggle and the unfortunate events over the last 20 years that exactly make Monday so special,” he said, noting that the word “agony” is rooted in the Greek agōnía, connoting “what you go through to accomplish a goal.”

Sourced By: The New York Post

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