Ground Zero church starts legal action in bid to rebuild

December 8, 2010

(RNS) Nearly two years after negotiations abruptly ended over where
a Greek Orthodox church destroyed on 9/11 may rebuild, legal action has
begun against several agencies and officials involved in the Ground Zero
land dispute.

Until talks broke off in early 2008, leaders from St. Nicholas Greek
Orthodox Church and Ground Zero developers had reached a preliminary
agreement to rebuild on a larger piece of property at 130 Liberty
Street, allowing the original 155 Cedar Street lot to be used for a
vehicle security center.

Under the deal -- either binding or tentative, depending on which
side you ask -- the church would also get $20 million towards its
rebuilding costs, which include enhanced security requirements for the
Ground Zero area.

In a statement released by the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey, the agency blames the tiny church's escalating demands for the
2008 stalemate, and reiterated that it supports "the return of the
church to its original home" on Cedar Street.

But church leaders insist the old lot is unsuitable, and that years
of planning have already gone into the new site. Now both sites are
under heavy construction -- neither with the church's permission, said
the Rev. Mark Arey, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of

"We've spent a year and a half trying to reach out to the Port
Authority, but they still haven't spoken to us directly," he said.
"There has been no phone call, no telegram, no fax, nothing."

In addition to the Port Authority, the church's legal claim also
names the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the New York Urban
Development Corporation and three Port Authority officials as potential

The legal notice was filed Monday (Dec. 6), coincidentally St.
Nicholas Day, the annual feast day of the tiny church's namesake. Sixty
days must pass before a lawsuit may proceed, most likely in federal
court, church officials said.

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