Saturday, August 19, 2006
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: http://www.savestbrigid.com
Posted by Gerry Regan at 12:29 AM