And they have written to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern seeking his intervention in what has turned into a drawn out and emotive argument over the fate of the Famine-era immigrant church.
St. Brigid’s was one of a number of churches marked for closure by the Archdiocese of New York.
And though demolitions crews began their work last summer, the church, located on Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, is still standing.
The letter seeking help from across the Atlantic was not only sent to the taoiseach.
Copies have been sent to more than 30 politicians in Ireland, including all the leaders of the other five parties in the Dail.
A copy was also sent to the Echo. The full text appears as a letter to the editor on page 11 of this issue.
The letter is signed by Ed Torres and Peter Harding on behalf of the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s.
“As well as our fight to stop demolition, we have campaigned to have the building landmarked as historic. Our argument has always been that there are broader social questions involved, ones concerning the city’s heritage and architecture. We don’t believe that such a structure would be knocked down in Dublin, London, Paris or Rome,” the two state in the letter.
And they continue: “We ask that the Irish Government use its influence to save St. Brigid’s. That intervention could take several forms, from making an appeal to Cardinal Edward Egan to offering to buy the church.
“We should point out that while there are Famine memorials in the metropolitan New York area, none has quite caught the imagination of the public. We believe St. Brigid’s is a wonderful place to tell the history of New York, from the Famine onwards, and including the immigration and migration of the Germans, the Italians, Puerto Ricans and others. It could be a valuable and popular site.”
The letter points out that the Irish government has already initiated a plan to build an Irish cultural center in Manhattan.
“Indeed, some have proposed that the center could be built beside the church. We think that’s an excellent idea, as the neighborhood, long associated with the arts, is rapidly gentrifying. The entire site would be good value for money,” Harding and Torres conclude.
“However, we accept that the exploratory committee charged with finding a site may decide on somewhere else. That still leaves St. Brigid’s as a magnificent resource to be restored and developed.”
Demolition work on the church began last August with the smashing of stain glass windows and the punching on a large hole through the building’s rear wall. That work was stopped when preservationists secured a court injunction. That injunction has since been lifted but there has been to date no resumption of demolition work.
The campaign to save St. Brigid’s has received high-level political support in the city. Comptroller William Thompson has said he would like to see the building granted landmark status.