A Catholic chapel that survived the 9/11 New York City terrorist attack is fighting to stay open in the face of rising rent.
Parishioners of St. Joseph’s Chapel, located near Ground Zero, and families that lost loved ones on 9/11 gathered for mass and a rally Sunday to urge the city to preserve the chapel instead of replacing it with a shopping center, according to PIx11. The chapel has both historic and sentimental significance, as families sought solace in its sanctuary in the days following the attack, while rescue workers used it as a command center.
“Across the street was the pit of death and doom,” said Sally Regenhard, whose son Christian, a firefighter, died on 9/11. “And at St. Joseph’s Chapel families saw some comfort, saw a way to get through this.”
Though the chapel survived smoke, dust, and debris damage from the attack, it may not be able to survive its latest challenge: a yearly rent price jump from $75,000 to $300,000, according to Aleteia.
The Archdiocese of New York told PIx11 that the chapel cannot afford to remain open. Parishioners and families for whom the chapel holds value presented an alternative that, if approved, would allow the chapel to remain open.
“We would like to have the Battery Park City Authority and Lefrak repurpose St. Joseph’s as a Battery Park community center,” Justine Cuccia, a parishioner at St. Joseph and rally organizer, told PIx11. “We also want to bring the family room back to Ground Zero where belongs, instead of Albany.”
Margaret Chin, a NYC Council Member, urged Gov. Chris Cuomo to intervene on behalf of the chapel.
Those who rallied for the chapel said they don’t oppose economic development in the area, but argued that the spiritual needs of the community and the history of the chapel ought to take priority.
“Commerce is great, I am not against commerce,” Michael Burke, whose brother, NY Fire Department Captain Billy Burke died on 9/11, told PIx11. “But we need a place for the soul.”
Michael Ragazzo, who survived 9/11 and lives near the chapel, argued that the chapel should remain and serve as a place of contemplation and a testament to what happened during and after the attack.
“It’s iconic – it’s part of our history,” Ragazzo told PIx11. “It should be here for all the people who went through it to preserve history.”
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