Volume 74, Number 28 | November 17 - 22, 2004



St. Brigid’s members still seeking audience with Egan

By Albert Amateau

The group trying to save St. Brigid’s Church, where the last Mass was held Sept. 15, is still trying.

They marched on Nov. 7, for the second time in a month, from the 1848 church on Avenue B at E. Eighth St. up to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Ave. in Midtown in a vain attempt talk to Cardinal Egan. And on Thurs., Nov. 18, they will ask Community Board 3 to support their application to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark designation for the church, which would protect it from demolition.

“The group from St. Thomas the Apostle in Harlem met us in front of St. Brigid’s and marched with us to St. Patrick’s but the Cardinal wasn’t there,” said Peter Cruz, a leader of Save St. Brigid’s.

St. Brigid’s Church, designed by Patrick Keely and built by Irish boatwrights, has been deteriorating for decades. It was closed to the public in 2001 and Masses were held in the school building next door. But last September, Bishop Robert Brucato told parishioners the St. Brigid’s parish would close because the Trinitarian Order whose priests served the parish for the past eight years had decided not to assign clergy to St. Brigid’s.

Over the previous three years, parishioners raised $103,000 to restore the church. But Michael Conway, the Trinitarian priest who had served St. Brigid’s, deposited the money in the parish general funds instead of a designated capital building fund, and much of it went to meet general parish expenses, Cruz said.

Moreover, the archdiocese had estimated the cost of restoring the church at $580,000 and decided against the project.

The Department of Buildings more than a year ago issued a permit to convert the church into five stories of residential units. But Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese, said there were no plans yet for the property.

The possibility that the church would be reconstructed as a new home for the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, currently located in rented quarters on E. Fifth St. and Avenue A, “is less likely now than it has been,” Zwilling said on Monday.
The archdiocese a few months ago decided to close St. Thomas the Apostle Church on W. 118th St. in Harlem and use the site to build nonprofit affordable housing. Zwilling, however, said that St. Brigid’s was not suitable for that kind of redevelopment.

St. Brigid’s parishioners speculate that because the block facing Tompkins Sq. Park is gentrifying so rapidly, the property will be sold for luxury housing.

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