Agreement signed to rebuild church at ground zero
The old St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center before 9/11.
October 14th, 2011
04:08 PM ET

Agreement signed to rebuild church at ground zero

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America agreed Friday to rebuild the destroyed St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Manhattan.

The agreement stipulates that the church be rebuilt near the original site with slight modifications to the archdiocese's desired plans, the most noticeable being a nondenominational bereavement center at the east end of the structure.

“Rebuilding St. Nicholas Church, with a nondenominational bereavement center, is not just good news for the Greek Orthodox community, but for all New Yorkers,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “With this agreement, we are continuing New York’s collective healing, restoration and resurgence.”

The plan comes after a four-month study that concluded building the church at 130 Liberty St. would significantly reduce the cost and have no impact on the reconstruction schedule of the new World Trade Center.

“Our pledge is to be a witness for all New Yorkers, that freedom of conscience and the fundamental human right of free religious expression will always shine forth in the resurrected St. Nicholas Church,” Archbishop Demetrios said in a release about the agreement.

The church has been in Lower Manhattan for 85 years and was founded by Greek immigrants. The congregation of about 70 families pledged to rebuild the church after the structure was engulfed in debris and flames on 9/11.

Until Friday’s announcement, however, no real progress had been made.

In 2008, both sides tentatively agreed the church would be built near the original site, using millions of dollars in taxpayer money. But the following year, the Port Authority said the church made extra demands that threatened the construction.

According to Stephen Sigmund, a Port Authority spokesman, the issue in 2009 was whether  "tens of millions of public dollars should be spent to move the site to a different site on the World Trade Center site to build a church six times the size of the original church, and to make sure any arrangements for that didn't further delay the construction of the World Trade Center site."

Reprentatives from St. Nicholas told a different story at the time though.

"In our perspective, they walked away," Peter Drakoulias, an executive member of the church board, said in 2010.

To broker a deal, the leaders of the archdiocese reached out to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“In 2009, Archbishop Demetrios sought my help in convening the Port Authority and state leadership to work on a solution, and I was glad to be of assistance,” Bloomber said in statement Friday. “Now, thanks to cooperation between all parties, a plan has been put in place that will give the community a new sanctuary and place for healing.”

As part of the new agreement, the church has agreed to swap its 155 Cedar St. land, the plot of the original church, with the land rights to the new church on Liberty Street. The Port Authority will now be responsible for all below-ground construction costs, while the archdiocese will pay for all costs related to above-ground construction.

Representatives of the Port Authority and Greek Orthodox Archdiocese signed the agreement Friday. The Port Authority board must now approve the final agreement, and upon doing so, all litigation between the archdiocese and the Port Authority will be terminated.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi, Mary Snow and Alexia Mena contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Belief • Christianity • Church • Church and state • New York • United States

soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. chad

    A church at ground zero, absolutely a good idea!

    October 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  2. ClarkAFB

    @Johnny Waffles – Perhaps you are in the dark. Orthodox Christians are Christains. In fact the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, of many ethnic origins, were the same church until 1054. Where did you get your education out of cereal box?

    October 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Exactly...they are all Chri "stains" – nothing but weak-minded hypocrites that shame their god. Now go back to your chow hall and have another helping of tard sandwiches.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Sara

      @sandals- did you miss your nap time wittle one?

      October 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  3. NonBlvr

    It is religious beliefs that cause people to perform wonderful acts of kindness and hideous acts of terror. 9/11 is one example of what can happen when a person views life through the lens of religion. Look at the protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Look at Christians and Muslims in the middle east. Religious people wrongly believe that in order to be good, you must be religious. You would probably be shocked to find how many "good" people are probably closet agnostics or atheists. We need to step back and question the role of religion and its influence on man. We would be better off without religion. We would then have to find solace in this universe on one another, which is really what happens. think about it.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      I agree. One of the greatest misconceptions that believers have is that without religion we would all be going around raping and killing each other. As if we, as humans, need religion to stop us from doing these horrible crimes to each other. We already have doctrines set in place to prevent stuff like this from happening and punishing those who break the law. It's the social contract we have to accept as a part of living in modern day society.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  4. J3sus Sandals

    Don't forget to stop at the church gift shop on your way out. The Greeks need to send the money overseas to pay off their debt.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  5. grist

    How horrible that theists are allowed to construct a church right at ground zero when it was theists acting because of religion who attacked us!

    October 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Are you dense? What kind of logic is it to put specific groups into such a va_gue connection? That would be like saying the US su_cks because it has the same form of govt as the Wiemar Republic did and they voted in a tyrant.
      Even though it doesn't make you life easier, you cannot just lump all religions together to try and prove out your frustrations.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • chad

      Never understood this atheistic belief that they can take the mud of islamic extremists and smear it on Christians.
      Doesnt make any sense.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • J3sus Sandals

      Yes, you can...and they did. It's their opinion, get over yourself.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Be a little logical. That church was destroyed during the attacks and they want to rebuild it. Preventing it from being built is not going to help people to come to their senses and reject religion. That's only going to happen with education. Are you of the mindset that we should bulldoze all these structures? That's not going to stop the believers from indulging in magical thinking.

      Maybe one day we will live in a world without religion. Then all of these churches will become nothing more than historical buildings for tourists to visit. But up until that point the kids will want their playhouses.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Awkward Situations- sounds like your belief gives you some measure of peace....keep the faith, your faith at least 😉

      October 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Uncouth Swain: I'll keep my "faith" in humanity, science and education. In religion, I have no faith at all since I believe it is destructive to the positive progress of society and more importantly, destructive to the free thought of individuals.

      The one and only thing atheists have in common is the lack of belief in deities. This does not make an atheist any more intelligent than a believer regarding different issues that are important to all of us. Intelligence has to do with the fund of knowledge and anyone, regardless of religion, is capable of that.

      One of my favorite quotes: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." – Albert Einstein

      October 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I'll keep my "faith" in humanity, ......."Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe." – Albert Einstein

      Shaky faith.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Uncouth Swain: I should say that I have "faith" in the better part of humanity – the part that has given us great principles such as democracy, law & order and things of that nature. I'm not naive though – stupid people will always be among us.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Too true and evidence of that is evenly spread out through these cnn boards I'm afriad..religious and non-religious alike.

      October 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Funny...they make a big deal of it being "nondenominational"...but guess what...so is the community center that all the bigots are calling the "mosque zt ground zero." Go read the freekin building permit applications and what-not.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  7. petemg

    Do some of you realize this church was destroyed on 9/11. Probably not because people think that the mosque and their community center came first. Why not have a church. Many of you want to worship prestigious houses, cars, jewelry and whatever. Why not allow a church. Why not allow churches after all it is still a freedom to worship isn't it. Or is it just a freedom of mosques.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  8. Shaun

    I think we should keep ALL religion away from ground zero. After all, religion is the cause of what happened there, does not matter what religion it was... it's all bad.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      So you want to discriminate against a person's faith?
      And no...religion did not bring the towers down..the planes that are a product of a capitalistic nation and a technological revolution are what brought the towers down.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • petemg

      So why allow a mosque then. September 11, 2001 was not caused by a religious thing. This country was founded upon religion. Why not allow a Christian nation to continue. Even though Obama stated it is not a Christian nation. At least as a Christian nation one is allowed to believe or not to believe if they wish. That is more than Muslim nations do. You either believe and worship Muslim or die.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      No..this nation was not founded upon religion but by a population that was in the majority Christian.
      This nation is Christian in that the majority of the population is Christian. We are not however a Chrstian Theocracy. Religion does not dictate our laws.
      Personally, I don't care what other nations do. This is the USA...we are suppose to set the example. Not look to others for approval.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • LoganWon

      Shaun – you are un-informed and very ignorant. Christianity has helped more people than it has hurt. Christian churches have fed hundreds of thousands of people, clothed them, and healed their wounds. Main stream Christian churches have doen alot wrong, like believing there is a Hell, read the bible, "every knee shall bow, every tongue confess". Jesus will save all of mankind; even Hitler. No evil is more powerful than the God that created everythingl, Yes God created evil and he will vanquish it also.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • chad

      I thought islamic extremists attacked the WTC..? You're saying it was some kind of multi-religious group effort?

      I did not know that... 8-|

      October 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Religion was a big part in the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks but it was not the ONLY motivation. If you think that then you must view the world in black and white.

      What do you think keeping religion away from ground zero is going to accomplish? It's certainly not going to help believers come to their senses. That will only be accomplished with education, debate and dialog. Also, since this church was destroyed during the attacks I believe they have every legal right to want it rebuild there because I believe in our legal institution to resolve conflicts even though it may not be perfect. As long as they don't use tax payer money to construct the actual building – I say let them rebuild.

      It sucks that people still rely on religion in this modern age but going after their buildings isn't going to help change their minds.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Awkward Situations- ad hominum.....you disagree with those that have this certain faith. That disagreement does not mean you have came to your senses while others have not.

      October 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Uncouth Swain: Regarding the belief in "god" – I absolutely think that I have come to my senses and they have not. This is based on our understanding of nature and the universe through science, of course. To believe in god, especially the christian god, means that you have to reject the proofs of science. That is nonsensical.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "means that you have to reject the proofs of science"

      No it does not. Now if you were arguing that to be a literalist...then I might agree, but to believe in God does not mean you reject science.

      October 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  9. petemg

    this is something that should have been done along time ago. Sick when you have obama's people who appeared to have been more concerned about the mosque.

    October 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Shaun

      Whats the difference? Church or Mosque, same thing.. both equally as bad.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      From a American govt standpoint...this church is no better than the Islamic Center. And I don't think Obama spent any real time on the discussion of either site but the conservative right spent WAY too much time on the Islamic Center.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Pete – Obama spent time talking about it because the stupid tea party and fox news made a huge fuss about it. If everyone were civil about it and acted like educated American instead of fools, he would not have said anything.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • petemg

      Too bad Obama thinks more of his Muslim background than the nation he supposedly leads.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @petemg- we'll settle this real quick...show one..just one picture of obama praying after the Islamic fashion. Just one. Then maybe you'll have something to pin on him. Otherwise...you are just willfully ignorant.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  10. JEN


    October 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      At least get your denominations correct *sigh*

      October 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  11. capnmike

    Yet more money and effort wasted on useless ridiculous fairy tales and the enormous hoax of religion...the human race has a long way to go to GROW UP!

    October 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • karl


      October 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Thank you for that unauthorative and factless opinion.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Shaun

      I thank you for that opinion as well... the human race does have a long way to go. When we leave ALL religion behind our true potential will start to become evident. Religion is the cancer of the human race and has been holding us back for far too long!

      October 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Sure Shaun, except there is nothing to support that wishful dream of yours. Ppl that are anti-religious are strange sometimes. Not all mind you but quite a few. They end up taking the faith in a certain religion and then reapplying it to their faith in humanity and the suppose hope in our own greatness.
      I'm sorry...but from a logical standpoint..faith in ego is no better than faith in a religion right?

      October 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • hmmm?

      Maybe your imaginary god did not want the church there is why he did not protect it.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @hmmm- calling something imaginary and then giving it an action....are you delirious?

      October 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      If you want people to stop believing in fairytales, you have to go after their hearts, minds, and appeal to their logic and intellect! Going after their buildings is retarded when they have every legal right to have their places of worship. Maybe churches with full parking lots makes you angry and a little bit sad but it will be a long long time before those parking lots are empty – we won't see it in our lifetime so there is no point in jumping the shark.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Awkward Situations- And when those ppl reason with their minds and seek the answers with their hearts...and really delve into the faith and what it is.....and still believe it, will you respect that decision and not imply anymore that they need to come to their senses?

      October 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • hippypoet

      Good ridance to religion and all these child abusing preachers. We all know george bush was behind it all anyway and not the muslims

      October 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      @Uncouth Swain: You can seek answers with your heart without having to reject reality in order to do so.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "You can seek answers with your heart without having to reject reality in order to do so."

      I agree...I do it all the time. So does many many ppl of faith.

      October 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Alright

    Well hippy, It actually makes sense.. in a wierd way, albeit. "God works in mysterious ways and we should not try to look deeper into his plan" is an argument I heard so many times.. If God was so omnipotent and fate predetermined exactly what should happen at which point in time, why do all the "good christians" feel anger at what happened that day?

    – isn't this what their god wanted?
    – Aren't they going against god's work by questioning his will?
    – is their god trying to incite anger into their minds?

    if answer is true for any of the above questions, he really is not a good god; isnt he? or is their faith in their god not as strong as it should be?

    October 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "isn't this what their god wanted?"

      Plans and wants are not the same thing you know.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  13. hippypoet

    who cares... if god exists and this church was there before the towers fell, then clealy god wanted it destoried also! duh!


    October 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Reality

    Wastng more time and money!!! Why?

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Budhism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    October 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Well Reality...I guess you don't really believe in our form of govt. Because in this nation we do not discriminate against those of a faith or those not of any faith.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  15. Alright

    Remember how vocal "good christians" were against building a mosque few blocks away from this place.. How would they feel if people of other faiths use the same arguments now.. against this building.. Blo-ody hypocritical morons

    October 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Michelle

      Actually, the church was ALREADY there. The are building something that was ALREADY there & destroyed by the men that flew the airplanes into the building. If you can't figure that out...you won't.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I agree in part with the above comment about the church already existing at the site in question.
      BUT, I am also for the Islamic Center being built as well. Either we support religious freedom or we do not.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      I support religious freedom in this country as well. There is nothing more that makes a person cling with all their might to religion than feeling as if they are being persecuted.

      October 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Awkward Situations- so that's why atheists are so persistent...they feel persecuted

      October 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  16. snow

    And where are the Hindu temple, Jewish synagogue, Buddhist temple, etc? Do you mean there were no people of other faiths that died on that fateful day?

    October 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Cheetahe

      I do not think they were any of these sanctuaries you have mentioned in that site before 9/11, but this church which was there even before the towers were built. Go and check it out.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • snow

      So what? Are you just replacing something that was destroyed or are you building a place that signifies hope against calamity? I would think it is the latter..

      October 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  17. Church

    Fling those church building doors open night and day.

    Bring the message of Hope in Christ night and day!!!!

    October 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Johnny Waffles

      So you want Christians to be Greek Orthodox? Western Christianity has not been too nice to them over the years. Are you converting?

      October 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • what

      It is never about finding your denomination.

      The truth is finding Christ in your life and accepting him as your lord and savior!!!!!

      October 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  18. Pat Riley

    I wonder if the Muslims are going to get as mean and weird about this church as Christians did about the Islamic center down there?

    October 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Chuckles

      no b/c the as.sholes protesting the muslim center were christians

      also, this was there before the two towers were destroyed so it's being rebuilt.

      October 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • LittleBearCB

      St. Nicholas was there since the early 1900. At this location, their services were held there since 1922...

      October 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  19. Bell chimes

    Build the Church and ring those bells!!!

    October 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  20. Don Pardo

    Building churches is not the solution to religious violence. Growing beyond the belief in churches and their weird superstitions is the solution for religious violence.

    October 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      It seems to me you are implying that having no belief is superior in having a belief. I think you are in error.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • hmmm?

      Believing in something is very important. But believing in nothing (gods) is a waste of time.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @hmmm?- You are allowed to believe that if you wish. Just as much as you believe anyone loves you.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
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About this blog

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.