Saturday, August 19, 2006

Passion, Politics and Diversity in Manhattan: St. Brigid's Fights On

NEW YORK -- Despite a demolition team smashing St. Brigid's stained glass windows last month, the mood at Solas at the St. Brigid's fundraiser Friday was anything but mournful. More than 100 gathered, paying $20 a head, together to eat, drink, and raise money for the legal defense of the church, which faces a writ of execution from the Archdiocese of New York. Politicians who spoke included City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, New York State Assemblywoman Sylvia Friedman, State Senator Martin Connor and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Council Speaker Christine Quinn, out of the country, sent a letter of support, read by Mendez.

Above, parish activist Edwin Torres auctions a photograph of a red hawk standing sentinel on the cross at St. Brigid's. The auction took place at Solas, a neighborhood bar. Photo by Patricia Jameson-Sammartano

Speaking to over 100 people, Stringer stressed that the fight to preserve St. Brigid's is about more than the preservation of a building, but is rather an attempt to destroy a diverse neighborhood. He declared, "If we lose this church, we lose something we can't get back. ... It is wrong to think you can bulldoze a community."

Connor declared, "When they take away our history, they're attacking our values." He indicated that the eclectic mix of ethnicities present demonstrated the kind of tolerance that St. Brigid's is famed for. Friedman called for use of the 40-year-old Landmarks Law, established in the wake of the destruction in 1963 of Manhattan's 1910 masterpiece Pennsylvania Station.

Mendez, a former parishioner of St. Brigid's, called for a St. Brigid's Day of Outrage to show support against the Archdiocese, and reminded the community, "We need places like St. Brigid's to remind us where we have been and where we are going." The Archdiocese closed the church in 2001, declaring it unsafe after a reemergence of a large crack near the building's northeast corner had destabilized its rear wall.

St. Brigid's fate may be decided in a Manhattan court house Thursday. Photo by Patricia Jameson-Sammartano

Ed Torres, head of the Committee to Save St. Brigid's, spoke of his 30 years as a parishioner in St. Brigid's, where he married, raised his family and worked as a catechist in the school, which still educates approximately 130 children despite the church's closing. He said the Committee to Rebuild St. Brigid's raised over $100,000 for repairs to the building, but was given notice to vacate in 2004. Last month, it took 45 minutes for workmen to smash what had taken nearly 160 years to build.

Torres called for people to express their outrage to Archdiocesan head Cardinal Edward Egan; his telephone number is (212) 371-1000. Also, there is a hearing in New York State Supreme Court, 60 Center St., Room 341, Manhattan, on Thursday, preceded by a rally in Foley Square across from the Court at 1:30 p.m.

Torres then presided over the auction of over 50 pieces of art donated by former parishioners and supporters of St. Brigid's, noting the fact that the church has served as sanctuary for so many different types of people. The fundraiser lasted well beyond four hours. -- Patricia Jameson-Sammartano, WGT Culture Editor

Committee To Save St. Brigid's Church:


St. Brigid's Cmte said...

For Immediate Release
December 16, 2006
Contact: Scott Gastel, (Sheinkopf Communications), 917-721-4022

St. Brigid’s Committee Hosts Christmas Benefit and Art Auction Featuring Local and Irish-American Artists

The Committee to Save St. Brigid’s Church hosts a “Cheers for St. Brigid’s” event Sunday night, December 17th from 6 -10 P.M. at Solas Bar (232 East 9th Street in the East Village). The event will feature community activists, artists, preservationists, entertainers and elected officials including Borough President Scott Stringer, all who are united in the cause to save historic St. Brigid’s from demolition by the Archdiocese of New York.

The art auction features donated works by local artists and those of Irish descent. The artists include: Elizabeth O'Rielly –(, Lydia Maxwell- (, Nessa Ryan (, Leon L. Dolice (1892-1960) (, Connor Foy (, Tad Day (deceased; represented by his sister, Debbie Day), Ronald DeNota (painter), Robert Feinland (painter and sculptor), Patricia Melvin (painter,, John L. Silver,(painter,, Onno de Jong- (, Les Levine (, Chakaia Booker, (, Maude Boltz (www.geocities/maudeboltz2/), Christina Varga,, Anna Sawaryn,, Lauren Edmond,, Roy MacManus, Dave McCuthchen and Gary Samartano.

Earlier this week, the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s released a letter signed by Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Council Member Rosie Mendez, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Martin Connor and New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, which asked the Landmarks and Preservation Commission to consider St. Brigid’s for landmark status. New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson also wrote a letter this week to the commission requesting landmark review.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kapnick is reviewing the Committee to Save St. Brigid’s case against the Archdiocese. There is presently a Court-ordered stop work order against any demolition work on the church.

What: St. Brigid’s Christmas Benefit and Art Auction
Time and Date: Sunday Night, December 17th from 6 -10 P.M.
Location: Solas Bar (232 East 9th Street in the East Village, b/w 2nd and 3rd Avenue).


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