Greek Orthodox rally to rebuild Ground Zero church

June 27, 2011

NEW YORK (RNS) With cries of "Rebuild now! Rebuild Now!" parishioners
and supporters of a Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed in the 9/11
attacks rallied at Ground Zero on Sunday (June 26) in hopes of resuming
negotiations to rebuild the church.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey have been at odds for several years over the cost
and exact location of the rebuilt church.

"Shame on the Port Authority to take this long to rebuild our
church," Nicholas A. Karacostas, supreme president of the American
Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, a national Greek-American
group, at a rally that drew about 100 people to the site of the former
World Trade Center.

"It's a crime, it's a crime for us to beg them to rebuild the church
in its rightful place."

Less than three months before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11
attacks, the church's pastor, the Rev. John Romas, said he and his flock
are frustrated that negotiations have been stalled for almost a year.

"Let us hope our prayers will be answered," Romas said.

The Port Authority is in charge of the overall rebuilding efforts at
Ground Zero. St. Nicholas, a small parish whose history dates back to
1916, stood in the shadows of the trade center's twin towers and was the
only house of worship destroyed in the attacks.

The uncertain future of St. Nicholas has sometimes been described as
a reflection of larger problems at the World Trade Center site, where
rebuilding has been marred by delays, political infighting, financing
problems and bureaucratic snafus.

While rebuilding St. Nicholas is considered a small part of the
overall rebuilding efforts, the negotiations over the church have been
particularly sour. Earlier this year, frustrated church officials filed
a lawsuit against the Port Authority over the delays.

The Port Authority and the church had a preliminary agreement for a
land swap in which the church would give up rights to its former site on
Cedar Street and rebuild at a larger property on Liberty Street.

The Port Authority did not respond immediately for comment about the
rally or the criticisms made by the church. But officials had previously
said talks with St. Nicholas got bogged down over what they called the
church's escalating demands.

At the Sunday rally, a number of speakers noted that prominent
political leaders -- including New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg --
had championed the cause of a controversial Muslim cultural center near
Ground Zero, but supporters of St. Nicholas said they had experienced
nothing but frustration.

"We're just very frustrated it's taken so long," Karacostas said in
an interview. "And there's still nothing to show for it."