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St. Brigid’s on the Cross? : Venerable Tompkins Square Parish ‘Nearer to God’

Bennett Baumer Jul 20, 2005

Fleeing famine, Irish immigrants built Saint Brigid’s Catholic Church in 1848. The yellow gothic-style church, situated across from Tompkins Square Park, has welcomed the Irish, sqatters and Latino immigrants. In June 2001, however, the Archdiocese closed the church due to structural problems while hundreds of parishioners continued to hold mass in the social hall. Saint Brigid’s faithful began a fundraising drive that collected around $100,000 to reopen the church.

“How do I explain to my five-year-old child that they want to destroy this church?” asked Catherine King, echoing several longtime parishioners whose families grew up worshiping at Saint Brigid’s. In September 2004, the Catholic hierarchy sent word that the church would forever close and demolition could be imminent as a plan to convert the space to apartments failed.

The Church has shuttered numerous churches in the past couple of years for lack of priests and ostensibly to pay hundreds of millions of dollars owed to victims of priest sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese sold St. Ann’s church, on 13th Street, to developers that built residential housing in its place. “Many of these poor parishes are sitting on valuable property,” said former Saint Brigid parishioner Ed Torres. Community members are also getting involved in the fight to save the church. “We used to have meetings here about the police riots in the eighties and nineties,” said veteran Village squatter Richard Degen. “They don’t shut down churches on Fifth Avenue.”