Wednesday, August 18, 2010


"Decision Not to Rebuild Church Destroyed on 9/11 Surprises Greek Orthodox Leaders," reads the headline to a story at The church in question is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed on 9/11 and thus actually was on part of Ground Zero. Needless to say, your Pavlovian reaction, if you're a well-trained Fox News lapdog, is to say, "Those America-hating, Christianity-hating fiends in New York! They're knocking themselves out to build that mosque and rejecting a church!"

Except there's less there than meets the eye.

We're told in the Fox story:

Greek Orthodox leaders trying to rebuild the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks expressed shock this week after learning, via Fox News, that government officials had killed a deal to relocate the church....

I assume the previous Fox story in question is this one, from yesterday. But when you look at yesterday's story, you find that the actual evidence of a "decision" is rather skimpy:

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America accused New York officials on Tuesday of turning their backs on the reconstruction of the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, while the controversial mosque near Ground Zero moves forward....

While the mosque project cleared red tape earlier this month, negotiations between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the church stalled last year -- and will not be revived, according to government officials....

Though talks between the church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stalled last year, church leaders say they've been trying to kick-start discussions ever since. But amid debate over whether a proposed Islamic community center should go forward near Ground Zero, government officials threw cold water on the prospect of any deal with the church -- telling Fox News the deal is off the table.

Confronted with the Port Authority's verdict, Father Mark Arey, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, said it's the first he's heard that.

"Negotiations did break off last year. We were expecting to hear from their lawyers -- we never did. We're still expecting to hear from them," he told Fox News. "We're disappointed. ... 130 Liberty Street was promised to us." ...

Following this? No decision has actually been announced. The priest involved in the discussions knew they were stalled, but thought they were still going on ... until someone from Fox News told him that "government officials" -- unnamed, of course -- said the negotiations are over.

So our only identifiable source for the news of this "decision" is Fox. Gosh, that sounds trustworthy and reliable, no?

Oh, and, by contrast, there was this in the New York Daily News on Friday:

A caller to Mayor Bloomberg's weekly radio appearance with WOR's John Gambling posed a question NY-1 congressional hopeful George Demos has been pushing for weeks: "Good morning. I'd like to know why nothing has been done to rebuild St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church down at Ground Zero."

... Said Bloomberg in answer to this morning's caller:

"It's been a bone of contention [between] the church and the Port Authority. And I've gotten involved mainly because the archbishop lives directly across the street from me, and he comes out with his staff and we chit-chat. He doesn't come over to borrow a cup of coffee, but that's okay. And I think they're very close [to] working with the Port Authority to find a location down there. There was one, I think the church wanted it, but it didn't fit in with the Port Authority plans because it would have interfered with other things, but there will be a new church built down there. And Chris Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, I know is working with the Greek Orthodox Church to try to find some ways to get this done." ...

So, at least as of five days ago, Mayor Bloomberg thought negotiations were still going on, and would still bear fruit. Hey, but who are you going to believe -- Fox or the mayor of the city?

I've said this before and I'll say it again: construction is slow at Ground Zero because multiple city and state and state-affiliated government agencies are involved, as well as many private companies, all of which are deeply lawyered up. Red tape of this kind is routine in these parts, regrettably -- and the red tape is inevitably going to be worse than it is for projects that have fewer parties involved. The Cordoba House/Park51 project falls into the latter category. If its path has been smoother, that's why. It doesn't need as many layers of approval. That's just how things are done here. It's no anti-Christian or anti-American plot.

In spite of it all, I'm guessing that Fox is blowing smoke and that reconstruction of the church will begin soon enough. And I hope it does.

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