Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially welcomed Archbishop Elpidophoros of America to New York City on Jan. 2, 2020 while announcing plans to resume the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center.
The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, located at 155 Cedar Street, was destroyed on September, 11, 2001 when the South Tower of the World Trade Center Collapsed.
This was the Governor's first meeting with His Eminence since the Archbishop was elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Archbishop of America to succeed Archbishop Demetrios in May.
The project will be driven by a new nonprofit organization with an independent, 13-member board - the Friends of St. Nicholas, which has been formed to ensure that the sacred space is completed as expeditiously as possible and can begin welcoming visitors from around the world. A previous effort to rebuild St. Nicholas stopped when the money ran out and was later discovered to have been stolen.
The complex, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and modeled after Byzantine churches of Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Istanbul, was designed to glow in the evening hours, an ever-present beacon of hope on the World Trade Center campus.
The Friends of St. Nicholas will be responsible for the timely rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine within two years. The new organization will raise money for the re-building of St. Nicholas, oversee construction of the site and conduct appropriate audits.
"We Will Be Ready"
The 13-member board will be chaired by Dennis Mehiel, Chairman of US Corrugated and former Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority. Richard Browne, Managing Partner of Sterling Project Development Group, will serve as COO of construction. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America will be the Honorary Chairman on behalf of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
"The rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church that was destroyed on September 11 is a moment of coming together and healing not only for the Greek Orthodox community but for all New Yorkers who lived through that horrific day," Governor Cuomo said. "This house of worship will serve as a reminder that our collective faith is something we can always count on to move past our painful memories and build a better tomorrow."
Archbishop Elpidophoros said, "On behalf of the Greek Orthodox Faithful, we have made a commitment to open the doors of this National Shrine by September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of that fateful day. I pledge to you, Governor Cuomo, and to all the people of New York, that we will be ready; we will be on time; and we will be open to all women and men of good will who wish to honor the memory of all who perished on September eleventh."
The original St. Nicholas Church at 155 Cedar Street was the only place of worship that was completely destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. When Governor Cuomo took office, he made the restoration of St. Nicholas Church a top priority, working with the Archdiocese and the Port Authority to reach agreement on a larger, more accessible site for the rebuilding of the Church and National Shrine and personally raising donations for the privately funded complex.
When completed, the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at 130 Liberty Street just south of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza will serve as a place of prayer and silent reflection and also house a nondenominational bereavement center for anyone seeking solace and strength at a time of loss.
"The rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church ... is a moment of coming together and healing not only for the Greek Orthodox community but for all New Yorkers who lived through that horrific day." Governor Andrew Cuomo