Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Just what the neighborhood needed. Amazing news.
The City Room has the story:
Donor Gives $20 Million to Save St. Brigid’s
By Sewell Chan
An anonymous donor has come to the rescue of St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church in the East Village, saving the building — which has presided over Tompkins Square Park since 1848 — from demolition and making it possible for the structure to be reopened as a parish church.
The Archdiocese of New York announced this morning that a donor had come forward with an “unexpected but very welcome gift” after a private meeting with Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the archbishop of New York.
The gift includes $10 million to restore the building, at 119 Avenue B; $2 million to establish an endowment for the parish “so that it might best meet the religious and spiritual needs of the people living in the community”; and $8 million to support the St. Brigid’s School and other Catholic schools in need.
Cardinal Egan expressed gratitude in a statement:
This magnificent gift will make it possible for Saint Brigid’s Church to be fittingly restored with its significant structural problems properly addressed. The two additional gifts, to create an endowment for the parish and to support the parish school, are a powerful testament to the donor’s goodness and understanding. He has my heartfelt gratitude, as I recently told him at a meeting in my residence.
The church was built by Irish immigrants who had fled the Potato Famine in the 1840s. Financial hardship has evidently been a longstanding part of the parish’s history. An 1889 article [pdf] in The Times reported that the parish was finally consecrated after a 40-year effort to repay its debts.
The church has witnessed momentous changes in the neighborhood. In 1991, the pastor of the church and two other clergymen were arrested on disorderly conduct charges when they crossed police lines to deliver food to protesters holed up in an apartment near Tompkins Square Park, which was the site of clashes between protesters and the police. In 1995, Pope John Paul II visited St. Brigid’s School — which was already suffering from declining enrollment — during a pastoral visit to the United States.
The church’s main building closed in 2001 because of structural problems, and the final Mass, in the basement of the Catholic school next door, was held in 2004. Despite fund-raising efforts, protests by parishioners and lamentations by Mary Gordon, a writer and memoirist who teaches at Barnard College, the church was scheduled to be closed. But supporters of the church filed a lawsuit, and in 2006, a day after demolition work began, a Manhattan judge issued a temporary restraining order halting the work.
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said that a precise date for reopening the parish had not yet been set.
“We obviously need to talk to priests in the area,” Mr. Zwilling said in a phone interview this morning. “It’s also going to take some time to restore the building. This is something that’s going to take months, at the very least, if not a couple of years. We can’t really tell yet. We’ve got architects who are starting to develop plans. Then we’re going to have to hire construction firms to do the work. There are significant structural problems that need to be repaired.”
Holy Fucking Shit. (Oops. Sorry God. But c'mon!)
[Updated] So this is all sinking in a little bit. Jeremiah floated the idea that perhaps Matt Dillon was the guardian angel. Interesting idea. (Does he have this kind of money? I helped the cause by buying multiple copies of Wild Things.) For whatever reasons, Dillon has been an ardent supporter to help save the church from the evil Catholics who likely wanted to turn it into another NYU dorm or condo to help pay for legal bills for you know what. (I'm Catholic, or was, so I know what.) OK, sarcasm aside, good for Dillon for helping out the Committee to Save St. Brigid's. And thank goodness for them. Without all their work, the church would have been destroyed years back.