Volume 73, Number 54 | May 12 - 18, 2004

Cabrini still interested in St. Brigid’s church

By Albert Amateau

A Department of Buildings permit to convert the vacant Church of St. Brigid in the East Village into a five-story residence for a new Cabrini nursing home was renewed recently, but the project is not a done deal, according to the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

The church, built in 1849 on Avenue B at E. Eighth St., has been vacant since June 2001 because of a crack in its east wall, and parishioners have been attending Mass in the social hall of the newer parish school building on E. Seventh St.

The permit to convert the church to residential uses was first issued in September of last year when the archdiocese considered the site as a possible alternative for the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, which rents its present building on E. Fifth St. at Avenue B.

“There are still talks with the sisters [Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which runs the nursing home] but it’s a slow proceeding and the project has not moved very far forward,” said Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the archdiocese.

Nevertheless, on March 26 the archdiocese renewed the Buildings permit, which now expires in April of 2005. The permit is for a gut renovation of the church building with a vertical expansion to five stories, 56 ft. tall with a total of 25,509 sq. ft. and including 29 apartments. The cost of the project is estimated at $1 million.

The current Cabrini center, an affiliate of Cabrini Medical Center, was established in 1992 in a former proprietary nursing home building at 542 E. Fifth St. The 240-bed center serves frail elderly patients and includes a short-term program for patients before returning home after acute hospitalization. The center is also establishing a long-term home healthcare program, “Nursing Home Without Walls,” to serve 100 patients in their homes.

Last summer, the archdiocese began exploring the possibility of St. Brigid’s or St. Emeric’s, on E. 13th St. and Avenue D, as possible new sites for the Cabrini center.

Zwilling said last week that if the proposal for the nursing home on the St. Brigid site isn’t realized, the archdiocese would consider other uses for the building, but he added, “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out.”

Ground for St. Brigid was broken in 1848. It was built by Irish immigrant shipwrights who worked in East River shipyards. The architect was Patrick C. Keely and the faces of some of the shipwrights who worked on the church are carved atop the pillars of the building.

The east wall of the church has been a problem for a dozen years and was stabilized with concrete block buttresses in 1991. A crack in the north (Eighth St.) wall also developed near the east wall intersection. In 2000, engineers reexamined the structure and estimated it would cost about $500,000 to underpin the entire east wall.

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