Greek Orthodox Church is still a casualty at ground zero site

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America. They attacked us at work. They attacked us at home. They attacked the innocent and defenseless. They attacked everything we believe in. They killed more than 3,000 innocent people.

We have rebuilt, and we are strong. We rebuilt the Pentagon wing. We are rebuilding a memorial at the World Trade Center. We are rebuilding America. Iraq, formerly a haven for terrorism, is a free country with democratic elections.

But we have not rebuilt St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, on the site of ground zero, which was completely destroyed in the attacks. Nothing was left except some Bibles, candlestick pieces and a bell clapper. Parishioners are meeting in Brooklyn, rather than at their own house of worship.

This needs to be remedied. We cannot let terrorists destroy a church, which was there since 1916.

The Rev. Mark Arey, ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, has said that he’s not against the proposed Islamic community center and mosque to be built at 51 Park Place. But he does want the church rebuilt.

The original site of the church was at 155 Cedar St. That proved impractical for rebuilding, because the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wanted to use the location for a vehicle security center.

So, the church had to give up its original location for a larger site at 130 Liberty St., half a block away. At the end of 2008, the Port Authority agreed to give the church $60 million toward construction.

In 2009, the agreement broke down. According to Port Authority spokesman Stephen Sigmund, St. Nicholas Church rejected the $60 million offer. According to Evan C. Lambrou, former editor of the National Herald, the Port Authority told the church the project was being scaled back. When the church asked to see the new plans, the authority called off the deal, relegating the project to oblivion.

What changed? The Port Authority executive director  who negotiated the original agreement, Anthony Shorris, has been replaced by Christopher Ward. Gov. David Patterson has replaced Eliot Spitzer. New York has suffered financially.

But the central issue remains that St. Nicholas Church was destroyed by an attack on America. Now, government bureaucracy is standing in the way of its reconstruction. Whereas the mosque at Park 51 is proceeding steadily toward construction, St. Nicholas is stalled.

Amid the rubble of the World Trade Center is a once and future church. Nothing defines America more than freedom, and nothing defines freedom more than free expression of religion. Terrorists destroyed a church on 9/11, and the terrorists will not be defeated until it is rebuilt.

Examiner columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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