Category: Archive

Activists to appeal St. Brigid’s ruling

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Justice Barbara R. Kapnick of the State Supreme Court declined to interfere, saying it would be an “impermissible intrusion” into Cardinal Edward Egan’s ecclesiastical authority to mandate that he reopen St. Brigid’s in the East Village, which he’d shuttered in 2001.
The Committee to Save St. Brigid’s had asked that the cardinal deploy the approximate $100,000 raised by parishioners to begin repairs on the 158-year-old structure overlooking Tompkins Square Park.
Now it has vowed to fight on. “We’ve too much at stake not to,” said committee member Patti Kelly. “I firmly believe we can turn this around.
“If we can get money in some way, shape or form, we can,” she added. “I hate to be cynical, but the archdiocese sees this as a real estate deal.
“Our attorney is filing a notice to appeal,” parishioner Carolyn Ratcliff told the Echo following a meeting yesterday afternoon. “And we are going to have an intensive fundraising campaign to pay for that.”
“We have to make this appeal work and get more people involved,” said stained-glass artist Kelly, a descendant of Famine immigrants. “We can’t lose this. We’re losing too much of our city.”
Ratcliff added: “We are hoping and praying that the archdiocese will be willing to negotiate.”
She said that the committee wanted St. Brigid’s returned to the parishioners but also envisaged the building being used as an immigrant museum.
Campaigners have argued that the church – whose sculpted interiors included the faces of some of the Irish shipwrights who built it – should serve as a memorial to the waves of Famine immigrants who reached America in the mid-19th century.
At a rally in Tompkins Square Park last summer, the novelist Peter Quinn said: “One million died and two million left Ireland during the Famine. The first thing they did in New York was build that church; they didn’t build a memorial at Battery Park.
“This was the first place they came to. Not Castle Garden, not Ellis Island [which were opened in 1856 and 1892],” he added.
But campaigners have also contended that an archdiocese plagued by financial troubles is motivated by the rising real estate prices of a gentrifying neighborhood and had long planned to demolish the church.
The archdiocese has responded that that the cost of securing the church’s back wall would be prohibitive — in the region of $6 million. St. Brigid’s supporters like New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Peg Breen, herself the great-granddaughter of Famine immigrants, countered that the cost to make the church usable on a day-to-day basis would be about $500,000.
Conservationists expressed interest in saving the church because it’s perhaps the earliest surviving work of County Tipperary architect Patrick C. Keely, who built the last of his 600 or so churches in the 1890s.

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