Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Rebuilding of Ground Zero, Part 146

The long-delayed deal between the Port Authority and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church has finally been done. The church had been promised that it would be rebuilt, but the Port Authority never attached a dollar figure, location, or size to that commitment.

It has now.

The church will get $25 million towards rebuilding, and that's an amount smaller than had been hoped for.
The church, which is to include a nondenominational bereavement center, will sit on a platform above the helical underground ramp of the vehicle security center, through which trucks and buses will travel from street level to the subterranean loading and parking areas serving the new World Trade Center.

A smaller church building will allow engineers to take advantage of the current design of that helical ramp, thereby eliminating the need for the extensive redesign and structural reinforcement that the larger plans would have required. Because there will be no fundamental change to the underground layout, officials of the state and the archdiocese said the St. Nicholas project would not delay or impede construction of the vehicle security center, which is expected to be completed in 2013.

The Port Authority estimates that it will spend about $25 million to construct the platform on which St. Nicholas will sit and provide the necessary utility hookups. The authority had balked at earlier estimates of $40 million, and it will not make a $20 million contribution to the archdiocese, as had been contemplated in earlier discussions.

From the platform up, financing would be the church’s responsibility. While it is impossible to estimate the cost with any precision until the church has been designed, the Rev. Mark Arey, the ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and a spokesman for the rebuilding effort, said a $10 million construction budget would not surprise him. With a base of several million dollars of spontaneous contributions, in addition to insurance proceeds, Father Arey said that sum could be raised quickly.
The delays were due to the inability to timely demolish the former Deutsche bank building that sat like a hulking ruin along the south side of Ground Zero, and now that it has been demolished, work can proceed on the church and the vehicle security center. The Port Authority will build the platform on which the church will rest, and because of its siting, it will not be as costly or as difficult to complete.

Frankly, this is a deal that should have been reached years ago, but for the failures of the Port Authority to not only contain costs on the PATH transit hub, but because of its responsibility and liabilities to the church. Had the PATH reconstruction not gone more than $1 billion over its estimated costs, the Port Authority would have had the money to make this happen much sooner (and wouldn't have needed to impose massive fare and toll hikes on its transit operations).

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