Port Authority sued over still-unbuilt church near ground zero
February 15th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Port Authority sued over still-unbuilt church near ground zero

By Chris Kokenes, CNN

A lawsuit claims that the owners of the World Trade Center reneged on an agreement for rebuilding a Greek Orthodox church destroyed in the collapse of the twin towers after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, cites "...arrogance, bad faith, and fraudulent conduct" on the part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in an agreement that would have allowed St. Nicholas Church to rebuild at 130 Liberty St., adjacent to the church's original location.

The church claims that the Port Authority reneged on paying $20 million in due consideration for their property at 155 Cedar St., where the church building originally stood.

The Port Authority said in a written statement that it would not comment on the specifics of pending litigation, but added that the agency worked hard to reach what it described as a very generous agreement with Greek Orthodox Church representatives:

"Unfortunately, after eight months of negotiations in which the demands of the Orthodox Church continued to increase over and above what was originally agreed to in 2008, the Port Authority had to make a practical decision to move on or risk further delaying the entire World Trade Center project, which was a completely unacceptable alternative. The Orthodox Church continues to have the right to build a church on their original site, and, as we indicated last December, we remain open to meeting with Orthodox Church representatives, but they have thus far refused to meet, choosing to initiate litigation instead."

A spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, a plaintiff in the suit along with St. Nicholas, denied that version of events.

"They have misappropriated the church," said Father Mark Arey. "The truth is that after our agreement in 2009, the Port Authority cut off negotiations and have not responded to any of our overtures. No one ever called us. Don't they have our phone number?"

The three-story St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, founded in 1916, had a congregation of about 70 families and until its destruction stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center's south tower.

The church negotiated with the Port Authority, which oversees construction at the site, and in 2008 both sides tentatively agreed that the church would be rebuilt nearby using tens of millions of dollars in public money. The plan also allowed the authority to move ahead with a vehicle security center as part of the World Trade Center redevelopment.

But the authority said the church made extra demands that threatened to delay the construction of the entire site. The authority said it made its final offer in 2009 of up to $60 million and told St. Nicholas that the World Trade Center could not be delayed by the issue. It says the church rejected the offer and walked away.

"It's not about money," Arey said. He said the church still retains the deed for the land where the house of worship stood and gave up the land to the Port Authority without any complaints in an effort to be part of the process.

"How do we exchange fairly the church property, which included the ground and air rights at ground zero, for another piece of property at 130 Liberty St., which has smaller land specifications and no air rights." said Arey. "We went from a silo to a pancake."

"We assumed we agreed that a deal was on the table" Arey said. "St. Nicholas no longer exists, and it needs to be rebuilt for ethical reasons. There are other things that are relevant than just money."

Arey also says the discussions have also been complicated by the fact that since 9/11, there have been three state governors and four directors of the Port Authority.

The authority previously had said that St. Nicholas has the right to build on its original location and that work could begin in 2013 when the vehicle security center is completed.

Arey said church leaders are determined to rebuild St. Nicholas on or near its original location. "What the Port Authority is doing is disingenuous and they should be ashamed of themselves," Arey said. "It does not look good to bully a church."

CNN's Mary Snow contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Greek Orthodox Church • New York • United States

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Deep Fister

    Greeks use olive oil for butts#x.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  2. mobetta

    Can't have a church rebuilt that was there and destroyed by 9/11 actions.... but it's okay to build a new mosque in the area???!?!?!?!?!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  3. mike l

    So, reality,no one can prove Jesus existed? How about this: prove He didn't exist. Prove He didn't raise Lazarus or change water into wine. Prove that He didn't rise up from the dead. You cannot disprove anything,so therefore you just say it never happened. You are as much a fraud as the Christians you disdain. Pity.

    February 16, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • mike I

      "So, reality,no one can prove Jesus existed? How about this: prove He didn't exist."

      No, mike, the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim.

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. You do not have it.

      If I claim that I have an invisible blue monkey sitting on my shoulder, prove that I don't. You can't; so, that must mean it is true?!

      February 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Magic

      mike I,

      Sorry... that was from me. That darn monkey sneezed and made me put your name in the wrong place...

      February 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Reality

      mike 1,

      To bring you up to speed:

      From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "(as are the resurrection, Lazarus rising and the water to wine legends),

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      Then there are these scriptural references:

      Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

      Added suggested readings:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–
      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
      10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus
      (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
      by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm
      11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
      Presented on March 18, 1994
      12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
      13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:
      14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
      15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
      16. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/
      17. Diseases in the Bible:
      18. Religion on Line (6000 articles on the history of religion, churches, theologies,
      theologians, ethics, etc.
      19. The Jesus Seminarians and their search for NT authenticity:
      20. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/
      21. Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.
      22. The Search for the Historic Jesus by the Jesus Seminarians:
      23. Jesus Decoded by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco (Da Vinci Code review)jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php
      24. JD Crossan's scriptural references for his book the Historical Jesus separated into time periods: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf
      25. JD Crossan's conclusions about the authencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes in the last 200 years:
      26. Common Sayings from Thomas's Gospel and the Q Gospel: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan3.rtf
      27. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by t-itle with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html
      28. Luke and Josephus- was there a connection?
      29. NT and beyond time line:
      30. St. Paul's Time line with discussion of important events:
      31. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan's books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.
      32. Father Edward Schillebeeckx's words of wisdom as found in his books.
      33. The books of the following : Professors Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.
      34. Father Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.
      35. Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus

      February 17, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  4. edward

    This is a story about rebuilding a church destroyed during 9-11 and it becomes a whole rebuke against christianity. I don't see you "Reality" trying to say Islam is false. But if you were to do that your life might be in danger from radical muslim extremists. So athiests, if you really are true athiests, let me see how brave you are to repudiate islam.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Reality


      As noted many times:

      Saving Muslims is quite easy!!!

      The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

      ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

      Are you ready?

      Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

      The First Five of the 77 Branches:

      "1. Belief in Allah"

      aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

      "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

      Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

      "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

      A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

      "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

      Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

      Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

      Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

      "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

      Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

      Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

      Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  5. Iqbal Khan

    Who was behind 9-11 check...

    February 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Reality

      Islamic/mosque/imam-driven terror and aggression via a partial body count:

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat98,691 – 107,707 Iraqi civilians killed as of 11/9/2010, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and .defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,116 killed in action, 902 killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15) Followed by the daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings every day in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  6. Steven

    Its truly how scary how many non-believers there are out there. Its a shame because there is so much peace and well being when you have faith and love in Christ.
    What's right is right if there was a church in ground zero another one should be built.
    I wasn't a parish member but would occasionally pop in during a lunch break or at random times . It was a welcome break. There were always people of different backrounds looking for the same thing.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • JC

      I don't disagree with your statement that any churches that were originally there should be rebuilt, but your faith is based on fear. "Peace and well being" can certainly exist among non believers. I'm continually amazed at how many "believers" there are.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  7. CW

    @ Reality,

    Ooooo sounds to me like the christians have called you out...see Jeff....and others.

    @ HeavenSent,

    All we can do is pray for those that don't believe....that our Lord will open their eyes. If not that place called H-'ait-'es will but it will be too late then.

    February 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Reality

      More reasons why the topic church should not be built:

      It is amazing how the attestation/stratum analyses used by the Jesus Seminarians, e.g. Professors Crossan, Ludemann, Borg and Fredriksen, agree with what is currently being taught in graduate theology classes at many large Catholic universities (e.g. Catholic U, Notre Dame).

      Major agreements achieved but by different reasoning:

      1. There was no physical resurrection (i.e. Heaven is a Spirit State)

      2. And it therefore follows there was no ascension and no assumption.

      3. There is/was no original sin. A&E were fictional characters living in mythical land.

      4. And it therefore follows, baptism does not erase original sin since there is no sin to erase. Limbo therefore is a non-issue.

      5. Jesus was crucified but details of the deed have little historic verification.

      February 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Olga

    As someone who is both Greek & Greek Orthodox, I feel the church shouldn't be rebuilt but I do think there should be a marker to state what was there. The church recieved $20 million what more do they need? I understand the value of the icons that were taken or destroyed when the towers collapsed but I don't feel rebuilding it will do much.
    I don't think this has anything to do with religion or religious persecution I do think this has a lot to do with money more than anything else.

    Of course some of you may disagree with me and that's ok, this is simply my opinion.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  9. Methusalem

    The Greek Christians are not allowed to rebuild their church because they love every body, and they're not murderers. The Muslims got permission to build their mosque because they hate and murder. The world is turning upside down!

    February 16, 2011 at 7:20 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Greek Orthodox church does NOT love everyone.
      At a Romanian monastery in 2005, a woman insulted a priest in front of his congregation, which led him to decree her possessed. The priest and some nuns performed an exorcism wherein they bound her hands and feet for several days, and denied her food and water. After that, they chained her to a cross and shoved a towel in her mouth to muffle her screams. She survived being crucified for three days before dying of asphyxiation.

      In the village of Gazi in Crete, the local Greek Orthodox priest stated during a sermon in 1987 that "Jehovah's Witnesses have a hall right here in our village. I need your support to get rid of them." A few days later, windows were smashed and shots were fired at the local Kingdom Hall.

      Doesn't sound much like love to me....

      February 16, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  10. Luke

    Hey, cool. That's the view from my office. Very sweet.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.