The rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan has been suspended after Skanska USA Building Inc., the site's main contractor, told subcontractors to withdraw after its contract with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was terminated effective December 5, 2017 due to payment defaults.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America acknowledged that construction "has been temporarily suspended" in a December 9, 2017 press release, saying, "In light of recent financial difficulties at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and in order to make certain that all operations and funds are being correctly managed, this difficult yet necessary step has been taken. The Archdiocese is confidently hopeful that construction will recommence in the very near future."
The Archdiocese said they have been assured by Skanska that they are "looking forward to the rescinding of (the) temporary suspension (and) to continue working together in cooperation with the Archdiocese for the completion of the building project."
The Archdiocese also said that during the suspension of work they have retained the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP and law firm BakerHostetler LLP to conduct an independent investigation into the rebuilding of St. Nicholas. The firms will report to an independent committee.
When the rebuilding of St. Nicholas was announced in 2013, the estimated cost for the St. Nicholas National Shrine, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was $20 million. By the time ground was broken in 2015, the estimate had risen to $35 million and when the 50-foot dome of the Byzantine-inspired structure was completed in 2016, the estimate reached $40 million.
By December, according to a December 26 NY Times report, the Archdiocese said the estimated cost was $72 to $78 million, of which $49 million had been pledged.
In its December 9 press release, the Archdiocese also said it would reevaluate its fundraising strategy and continuing efforts to cut costs.
In an October 10, 2017 "Statement on the Archdiocesan Financial Situation," His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios acknowledged the Archdiocese faced a severe and complex financial deficit that had been building for several years.
"We were utterly surprised and saddened by the deficit, and by its unexpected nature," Archbishop Demetrios said. "The painful and unavoidable steps we are taking to correct the situation will have significant impact on the operations of the Archdiocese, and we are moving decisively and with conviction to correct flaws in financial controls and operations revealed in the crisis to rebuild our finances."
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is based in New York City and represents 540 churches in the U.S. with more than 1.5 million church members and 800 priests.
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