High rent may doom Catholic chapel that survived 9/11

2017-04-29 14:39
Smoke rising from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City. (File, AP)

Smoke rising from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City. (File, AP)

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New York - Parishioners at a New York City chapel that sheltered 9/11 first responders are praying for a miracle to save it from falling victim itself to the prosperity of its resurgent neighbourhood.

St Joseph's Chapel is living on archdiocese subsidies after the rent for the relatively small space tripled in 2014 to $264 000 a year.

Midday Mass

"If it should disappear and become a Gap or something — nothing against Gap, but it's really not OK," said Justine Cuccia, 55, a leader of the effort to save the tiny Roman Catholic chapel, part of the oldest Catholic parish in the state.

St Joseph's occupies ground-floor space in an apartment complex in Battery Park City, a community fewer than two blocks from the World Trade Centre. The chapel is a mission of St  Peter's Church a stone's throw away, where worshippers will be expected to go if St Joseph's closes.

Patricia Baumann, who attended midday Mass at St Joseph's last week, called the chapel "a special, meaningful place" where her children were baptised and had their first Holy Communions.

"I still hope that it will be here for my family," Baumann said. "But if not, then we'll go to St Peter's."

When the World Trade Centre fell, modest St Joseph's sat undamaged just outside the rubble zone.

Emergency workers and volunteers took out its pews and used the chapel as a command centre for several months. Priests celebrated Mass in a tent outside. Rescue workers slept on its floors.

St Joseph's was rededicated in 2005 as a memorial to those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks, with statues including St Florian, patron saint of firefighters, and St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of police officers.

Luxury apartments

"Everything about the space is a 9/11 memorial," said Cuccia.

For the archdiocese, though, it is also a financial drain.

The chapel's rent spiked in 2014 from $80 000 in 2009 as new trade centre towers went up and developers competed to build luxury apartments and high-end stores in the area.

St Joseph's is the only Roman Catholic church in the New York Archdiocese that is a long-term renter, rather than owner, of its space, archdiocese spokespeerson Joseph Zwilling said.



Read more on:    9/11 attacks

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