Mosque yes, church no, say New York officials. “Decision Not to Rebuild Church Destroyed on 9/11 Surprises Greek Orthodox Leaders,” from FoxNews.com, August 18 (thanks to all who sent this in):
Greek Orthodox leaders trying to rebuild the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks expressed shock this week after learning, via Fox News, that government officials had killed a deal to relocate the church.
The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, once a tiny, four-story building in the shadows of lower Manhattan, was destroyed in 2001 by one of the falling World Trade Center towers. Nobody from the church was hurt in the attack, but the congregation has, for the past eight years, been trying to rebuild its house of worship.
Though talks between the church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stalled last year, church leaders say they’ve been trying to kick-start discussions ever since. But amid debate over whether a proposed Islamic community center should go forward near Ground Zero, government officials threw cold water on the prospect of any deal with the church — telling Fox News the deal is off the table.
Confronted with the Port Authority’s verdict, Father Mark Arey, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, said it’s the first he’s heard that.
“Negotiations did break off last year. We were expecting to hear from their lawyers — we never did. We’re still expecting to hear from them,” he told Fox News. “We’re disappointed. … 130 Liberty Street was promised to us.”
Arey was referring to the address, about 100 yards away from the original site, where the government earlier proposed relocating the church. The Port Authority and the church announced a deal in July 2008 under which the Port Authority would grant land and up to $20 million to help rebuild the church — in addition, the authority was willing to pay up to $40 million to construct a bomb-proof platform underneath.
Within a year, the deal fell through and talks ended — apparently for good, according to the Port Authority. [...]
George Demos, a Republican candidate for New York’s 1st Congressional District, also has drawn attention to the negotiations. He released an open letter to President Obama Tuesday urging him to, as he did with the mosque debate, weigh in on the church discussions.
“While we may disagree on the appropriateness of the mosque, we can surely agree that it is an issue of national importance that the only house of worship actually destroyed on September 11, 2001, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, be rebuilt,” Demos wrote. “Mr. President, please stand up and defend our Judeo-Christian values, express your public and unwavering support for St. Nicholas Church, and ensure that it is rebuilt.”
Father Alex Karloutsos, assistant to the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, Archbishop Demetrios, told FoxNews.com that the Port Authority “simply forgot about the church” at Ground Zero.