The old Pennylvania Station was not like any other building either, yet it fell. When it came down, New Yorkers wondered how they’d allowed it to happen.
Still, for years afterwards, developers battled to tear down that other uneconomic relic of a bygone era, Grand Central Terminal. Today, the only people threatening the most recognizable interior in New York City are Islamic extremists. Grand Central stands in all its splendor, protected by the police and the National Guard, a stunning testament to the vision of individuals like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who finally secured its future in the courts in 1978.
The former first lady wrote at the time: “Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters.”
St. Brigid’s may be a relatively modest building compared to the jewels in New York’s crown, but it was an immediate product of the city’s rebirth as a center of mass immigration — and there could be no better monument to that moment in the nation’s history.
It may not be as famous as the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building or Grand Central Terminal or Ellis Island or the Statue of the Liberty or the Brooklyn Bridge, but — built by the first wave of Famine immigrants — it predates all of them.
St. Brigid’s should be allowed to stay.