St. Brigid’s work is more extensive than expected


Renovation and major reconstruction is continuing on St. Brigid’s Church, at Eighth St. and Avenue B, and the amount of work required has turned out to be even more than anticipated.

According to Joseph Zwilling, a spokesperson for the New York Catholic Archdiocese, the mid-19th-century church built by Irish immigrants had major damage far beyond merely its eastern wall, which had visibly detached from the building.

“The work is proceeding at St. Brigid’s,” Zwilling said. “As we indicated from the beginning, extensive repairs have been needed at the church to repair and renovate it. The church structure was in very poor condition, and additional needed repairs were found once the work began.”

However, according to a local source who requested anonymity, a number of alarming rumors have been circulating in the neighborhood about the project, including that the $10 million restoration fund for the church has already been spent and that there is a significant cost overrun; that the church’s windows’ being removed in 2006 caused water damage that weakened the walls, requiring extra work to shore up the foundations; and that both the north and south walls need to be removed and totally rebuilt so that the eastern wall can be tied into a stable structure.

The church’s north side is partially obscured from view behind a mass of scaffolding and construction netting, but it does appear that the church’s north wall already has been entirely removed.

In addition, according to the source, when the north wall was removed, its brownstone facing blocks — roughly 175 pallets worth — were carefully removed, wrapped in plastic and stored for possible refacing of the north wall once a new cinderblock structure has been built.

“I would say that it is somewhat of an encouraging sign that the construction team saw fit to preserve the original brownstone facing blocks,” the source said. “I would hope that means they are going to try and reset them and, in essence, bring the building back, to some degree, to its originally intended look.”

Finally, the source said, he was told that the anonymous donor who originally put up the millions of dollars to save the church from the wrecking ball recently toured St. Brigid’s, fueling “speculation that the archdiocese may be seeking a second infusion of cash from the donor.”

However, Zwilling shot down all of these rumors.

Regarding the north wall, he said, “The fact that the windows were removed is not a factor, and has no bearing whatsoever on the work that has been done or needs to be done. The north wall has extensive water damage from the water infiltration through the roof and the old Yankee gutter system. The water dissolved the anchor ties between the brownstone exterior and the structure support wall of the building, which means the only thing holding up the brownstone was the weight of the wall on itself.”

The original brownstone facing blocks will not be reused, according to Zwilling.

“We are replacing the support wall and a new precast brownstone facade will be constructed that will restore the building’s appearance to its original condition,” he said. “The brownstone will be installed on the west side (the front of the church) as well. It is not cost efficient to reuse the original brownstone, which has deteriorated beyond restoration quality.”

Zwilling denied that the archdiocese has reached out to the anonymous “angel” for more funds for the project.

“There has been no request made to the donor for more money,” he said. “We do not anticipate making such a request.”

In 2008, the archdiocese agreed to save St. Brigid’s after the anonymous donor gave $20 million; $10 million was to go toward the church’s reconstruction, $8 million was to support St. Brigid’s School and another $2 million was to be used as an endowment for the parish.

Zwilling did not give an anticipated completion date for the church project.