Trouble emerged after St. Nicholas announced its plans to build a traditional Greek Orthodox church building, 24,000 square feet in size, topped with a grand dome. Port Authority officials told the church to cut back the size of the building and the height of the proposed dome, limiting it to rising no higher than the World Trade Center memorial. The deal fell apart for goodin March 2009, when the Port Authority abruptly ended the talks after refusing to allow church officials to review plans for the garage and screening area underneath. Sixteen months later, the two sides have still not met to resume negotiations.
St. Nicholas Church’s difficulty in getting approvals to rebuild stands in stark contrast to the treatment that the developers of the proposed Cordoba mosque have received. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, state Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo, and a raft of city officials have all come out publicly in favor of building the mosque, and the city’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission recently voted unanimously to deny protection to the building currently occupying the site where the mosque is to be built.
The authority now says that St. Nicholas is free to rebuild the church on its own parcel at 155 Cedar Street, just east of West Street. The authority will, in turn, use eminent domain to get control of the land beneath that parcel so it can move ahead with building foundation walls and a bomb-screening center for trucks, buses and cars entering the area.
“We made an extraordinarily generous offer to resolve this issue and spent eight months trying to finalize that offer, and the church wanted even more on top of that,” said Stephen Sigmund, a spokesman for the Port Authority. “They have now given us no choice but to move on to ensure the site is not delayed. The church continues to have the right to rebuild at their original site, and we will pay fair market value for the underground space beneath that building.”
Last July, the Port Authority and the Greek Orthodox Church announced a tentative plan to rebuild the church just east of its original site, at Liberty and Greenwich Streets. The authority agreed to provide the church with land for a 24,000-square-foot house of worship, far larger than the original, and $20 million. Since the church would be built in a park over the bomb-screening center, the authority also agreed to pay up to $40 million for a blast-proof platform and foundation.
In recent negotiations, the authority cut the size of the church slightly and told church officials that its dome could not rise higher than the trade center memorial. The church, in turn, wanted the right to review plans for both the garage with the bomb-screening center and the park, something the authority was unwilling to provide. More important, authority officials said, the church wanted the $20 million up front, rather than in stages. Officials said they feared that the church, which has raised about $2 million for its new building, would come back to the authority for more.
The thing is, as the portion I quoted made clear, is that the problem is not that it is a church, it's that they where greedy.