Ground Zero Church Sues NY Authorities over Stalled Rebuild

The Greek Orthodox church ruined in the Sept. 11 attacks alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday that local authorities reneged on a rebuilding agreement near its original site by Ground Zero.

If the church wins the case, developers might have to redo building plans near the World Trade Center site.

"This case arises out of the arrogance, bad faith, and fraudulent conduct of the Port Authority, as agent for all of the agencies, in preventing St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox from rebuilding its church at Ground Zero after it was crushed by a falling tower," St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America state in the suit.

In a statement, St. Nicholas and the archdiocese claim that in March 2009 the Port Authority "disavowed" the agreement to rebuild the fallen church at a property near the original location at 155 Cedar Street.

"Since that time, the Port Authority has rebuffed all efforts by the Church to work with it regarding the rebuilding," they argue. "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 Port Authority of New York & New Jersey issued a statement responding to the complaint, saying the authority went ahead with work on the property after the demands of the church went "over and above" the original stipulation in 2008.

"The Port Authority had to make a practical decision to move on or risk further delaying the entire World Trade Center project, which was a completely unacceptable alternative," reads the statement.

"The Orthodox Church continues to have the right to build a church on their original site, and, as we indicated last December, we remain open to meeting with Orthodox Church representatives, but they have thus far refused to meet, choosing to initiate litigation instead."

"They have misappropriated the church," Father Mark Arey shot back in a CNN story. "No one ever called us. Don't they have our phone number?"

According to the suit, the authority would allow St. Nicholas to rebuild at 130 Liberty Street and pay the church $20 million in exchange for using the original property to build a vehicle security center as part of the World Trade Center redevelopment.

"We assumed we agreed that a deal was on the table" Arey said. "St. Nicholas no longer exists, and it needs to be rebuilt for ethical reasons. There are other things that are relevant than just money."

But according to the Port Authority, the church was offered up to $60 million but rejected it.

Constructed in the early nineteenth century, the St. Nicholas church building measured 22ft. wide, 56ft. long and 35ft. tall, and included a parking lot.

Church officials said they are determined to rebuild St. Nicholas on or near its original location, Ayers said.

St. Nicholas is the only house of worship destroyed by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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