A lawyer for the Save St. Brigid’s Committee argued before Justice Michael Stallman of the New York State Supreme Court that parishioners had donated over $100,000 with the blessing of church officials towards making necessary repairs and that nothing could be done that was not consistent with that.
Harry Kresky also contended that, in 1940, Cardinal Joseph Spellman had made St. Brigid’s in the East Village a religious corporation to be overseen by a board of trustees, which would include parishioners. Although a board has not apparently met for several years, “they [archdiocese officials] can’t act unilaterally,” he said.
Kresky, who’s well known for taking citizens’ cases against big government, said the claim by archdiocese lawyers that the building was on the point of collapse was nonsensical and a “red herring.”
Stallman advised the parties to seek a compromise and they met two days after the hearing last week. The two sides will convene again on next Monday morning, the last day of the order has effect.
“We’ve always been willing to negotiate,” said parishioner Carolyn Ratcliffe, but added that press spokesmen for the archdiocese have said that demolition is the only option.
Parishioners and their supporters gathered in front of the 157-year-old structure on Sunday afternoon buoyed by the temporary legal measure and the wider media exposure their cause was receiving. However, they also pointed out that the archdiocese was given the go-ahead to apply for the final paperwork necessary for demolition.
As the Echo went to press Tuesday, artifacts were being removed from the church that overlooks Tomkins Square Park, including, it’s believed, the carved faces of the Irish shipwrights who built it in 1848.
New York preservationists have also been anxious to save this very early example of the work of County Tipperary architect Patrick C. Keely, who built up to 700 hundred churches in North America in a 50-year career.
On Sunday, Grace Hogan, a lay reader at St. Veronica’s in the West Village, offered her support. “It’s quite pretty. It’s stylish and elegant,” she said of St. Brigid’s.
Hogan, whose ancestors left Tipperary at the time of the Famine, referred to the controversy surrounding the so-called “Lollipop” building at Columbus Circle.
“It’s enormous and it’s hideous, and they’re still going to keep it anyway,” she said. “But this church is on just half a block.”
Campaigner Roland Legiardi-Laura said the solution was to give the church back to the parish.
“With a little imagination they could save St. Brigid’s,” he said. “You’ve got 157 years of passing the plate; the community has to have a say in what happens.”