(Washington, DC)Nearly a decade after terrorist attacks destroyed St. Nicholas Church, the fight continues to have the church rebuilt.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has issued a strong letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) asserting that the Port Authority has misrepresented the nature of its preliminary agreement with St. Nicholas Church, engaged in fraud while moving away from negotiations, relied upon defamation to mask its activities, and trespassed on St. Nicholas Church property without warrant or legal justification. The Port Authority's activities are a violation of St. Nicholas Church's rights under federal law 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
"The law is clear: the Port Authoritys current course of dealing harms the constitutional rights of Saint Nicholas Church, not to mention basic principles of contractthe requirements of good faith and the absence of fraud," said CeCe Heil, attorney for the ACLJ. The reconstruction of St. Nicholas Church is currently delayed and obstructed due to the Port Authority's refusal to finalize the land exchange necessary to provide the Greek Orthodox congregation with a location near ground zero, its original home."
The purpose of the ACLJ's letter is to encourage the Port Authority to reverse its present course of bad faith dealings and obstructionist tactics towards the St. Nicholas Church and to advocate for the Port Authority to resume negotiations in good faith.
St. Nicholas Church and the Port Authority had reached an agreement that would allow the church to be rebuilt nearly two years ago. In an Oct. 2, 2008 statement, the Port Authority stated, "The Port Authority and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church have reached an agreement that will allow the 92-year-old church to be rebuilt near its former Cedar Street location-allowing for the [Vehicle Security Center], a vital artery that will serve nearly every facility on the site, to begin construction immediately. This agreement on one of the linchpin issues for the site brings to a successful conclusion months of negotiations."
The ACLJ asserts that the Port Authority has since repeatedly refused to recognize the agreement and has attempted to mask its actions by grossly mischaracterizing the negotiations.
"Instead of honoring the bargain, the Port Authority publicly claimed that St. Nicholas Church was making exorbitant demands, including a spurious claim that St. Nicholas requested over $60 million dollars to help rebuild," said Heil. "The defamatory characterization of the negotiations was used simply to hide the Port Authority's real intentions of backing away from a valid agreement."
The ACLJ is urging the Port Authority to resume negotiations with St. Nicholas Church and cease trespassing on the church property to avoid violating the church's rights under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause, Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, and the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice focuses on constitutional law and is based in Washington, D.C.
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