Millions Missing from Construction Project of Church Destroyed On 9/11

Rendering of the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine at the World Trade Center,

The United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is said to be investigating the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, which was leveled on 9/11.

The project, recently termed “an $80 million boondoggle” by the New York Post, is said to be under the scrutiny of federal agencies, according to The National Herald, which covers the Greek community.

The Herald has also reported that the state Attorney General’s Office is claiming as much as $15 million has gone missing from the construction accounts for the half-built church.

While the project is funded by tens of millions of dollars in private donations, notes the Post, its cost has more than doubled — from $30 million to $80 million. Perhaps ironically, work apparently stopped in December when the archdiocese was unable to pay the contractor.

“The church has zero capabilities to manage a project like the St. Nicholas Shrine,” said Dean Popps, a Virginia lawyer and former leader of a church reform movement, to the Post. “Let’s just say these guys aren’t the same Greeks who built the Parthenon.”

Jerry Dimitriou, a former archdiocese executive director, warned church officials in a January letter that design changes would cost “millions of extra dollars,” according to the Post. “Were you not told, before (Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) was chosen, that if you choose him as the design architect, the budget would surely be at least double what was originally estimated?”

As Calatrava himself notes on his web site, “The church is situated approximately 25 feet above street level, which raises it slightly above the canopy of the World Trade Center Memorial oak trees. Shroud in stone, it is entirely fitting that the church, the only non-secular building on the reconstructed site, occupy this raised position. As such, it will be a spiritual beacon of hope and rebirth for the congregation and the city through the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will pass through the reconstructed World Trade Center site. The design for church must respect the traditions and liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church, but at the same time must reflect the fact that we are living in the 21st century.’ His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios.

In response to this challenge, Santiago Calatrava set out to provide a building and sequence of spaces that would directly address the traditional Greek liturgy while creating a spatially varied architectural procession.”

“The church has zero capabilities to manage a project like the St. Nicholas Shrine,” said Dean Popps, a Virginia lawyer and former leader of a church reform movement, to the Post. “Let’s just say these guys aren’t the same Greeks who built the Parthenon.”

The shrine, originally supposed to be completed in 2016, enjoyed a storied history. But as it says on its web site, “Everything changed on 9/11. Saint Nicholas was completely destroyed in the collapse of World Trade Center Tower Two during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. During the weeks and months that followed, the Archbishop presided over numerous funerals and memorials for the many Greek Orthodox Christians who died that fateful day. He participated in interfaith and ecumenical events, at city, state and national levels. And most importantly for Saint Nicholas, the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11, the Archbishop inaugurated a dialogue with then Governor George Pataki to rebuild the church.”

By Andrew Blodgett Mayfair

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