The East Village structure, built by Irish immigrants at the height of Great Famine and shuttered by the archdiocese in 2001, has been the subject of a growing controversy over the past two years.
On July 28, Judge Barbara Kapnick of the State Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt to the demolition of the church that had begun the previous day and reaffirmed that decision a few weeks later. She has yet to issue a final ruling on the status of the demolition order.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s has been arguing that the 158-year-old church should be landmarked.
Said committee member Jerome O’Connor: “The response from Irish-Americans and Irish immigrants in New York has been particularly strong because of its significance to our community, so we urge them to continue spreading the word about the importance of landmark status for its survival.”
The committee has asked sympathizers to visit its Website, www.savestbrigid.com, for more details about how they can submit requests for evaluation of landmark status with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, a vital first step in the process.
St. Brigid’s is one of the oldest buildings above Lower Manhattan’s Houston Street, one that served succeeding generations of immigrants for more than 150 years. It’s also the earliest extant work of Patrick C. Keely, the County Tipperary-born architect who built almost 700 places of worship throughout North America in the half-century before his death in Brooklyn in 1896. The neighborhood Irish shipwrights who helped Keely (and whose carved images adorned the church’s pillars before their recent removal) were among the 69th Regiment’s first recruits and St. Brigid’s pastors served as the regiment’s chaplains through the Civil War.
Support for the preservation and restoration of St. Brigid’s has grown through this year. The Ancient Order of Hibernians has asked Cardinal Edward Egan to reconsider his position on its demolition and has offered to run the church as a museum. More than a dozen prominent Irish and Irish-American writers – Pete Hamill, T.J. English and Colum McCann among them – spoke at a fundraiser for the committee in June. Film star Matt Dillon and comedian Colin Quinn attended another committee event earlier this month and the backing of other celebrities is expected.
Meanwhile, this week, the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s Church has written to Egan asking him “to work with all involved to come to a mutually acceptable plan for the preservation of this historic, cultural and architectural jewel.”