BATTERY PARK CITY, Manhattan — A Catholic chapel that survived the September 11 terrorist attacks may not survive a hefty rent increase.
But on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the attacks, a group of 9/11 families and parishioners are fighting to keep the chapel open instead of replacing the chapel with high end retail stores.
Michael Burke lost his brother FDNY Captain Billy Burke on 9/11 and now he is worried about losing St. Joseph chapel.
“Commerce is great, I am not against commerce,” Michael Burke said. “But we need a place for the soul.”
This Catholic chapel, located within Gateway Plaza right across from where the Twin Towers stood, served as a command center for rescue workers and volunteers.
It also provided solace to grieving families.
“Across the street was the pit of death and doom,” Sally Regenhard, who lost her son Christian, a probationary firefighter on 9-11, said. “And at St. Joseph’s Chapel families saw some comfort, saw a way to get through this.”
But in the last few years, St. Joseph’s rent has gone from $75,000 a year to $300,000.
The Catholic Archdiocese of New York says this struggling parish cannot sustain the cost so some parishioners have come up with Plan B.
“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 St. Joseph parishioner and rally organizer told PIX11. “We also want to bring the family room back to ground zero where belongs, instead of Albany.”
At a news conference after mass, parishioners, neighbors and 9/11 survivors and their families rallied to keep Saint Joseph Chapel open.
“It’s iconic – it’s part of our history,” Michael Ragazzo, a 9-11 survivor and a neighbor, told PIx11. “It should be here for all the people who went through it to preserve history.”
New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin, who attended the news conference, called upon Governor Cuomo, who appoints members to the Battery Park City Authority, to step in and save the chapel.