Construction temporarily stopped at church destroyed on 9/11

New York/ December 27, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) —Construction on a Greek Orthodox church to replace one that was crushed in the Sept. 11 attacks has been temporarily suspended amid rising costs and questions over how donations have been managed.

The St. Nicholas National Shrine next to the World Trade Center memorial plaza was to replace a tiny church obliterated when the trade center’s south tower fell in 2001. The new building was designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, who created the soaring white bird-like mall and transit hub nearby called the Oculus.

But unlike the transit hub, built largely with federal transportation dollars, the church is being funded through donations including from the Greek government, Greek Orthodox church members around the world, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Italian city of Bari, whose patron saint is St. Nicholas.

In September, the estimated cost was $50 million. But according to The New York Times , which first reported the work suspension, the cost had jumped to an estimated $72 million to $78 million as of this month.

Two firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BakerHostetler, were hired to perform an independent investigation into the construction, according to a Dec. 9 statement posted on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

The stoppage was ordered by the construction company on the project, Skanska USA, the statement said.

“The archdiocese is confidently hopeful that construction will recommence in the very near future and has been assured by Skanska … that they are looking forward to the rescinding of this temporary suspension to continue working together in cooperation with the archdiocese for the completion of the building project,” the statement read.

The Greek Orthodox archdiocese, based in New York, represents more than 500 parishes across the country with more than 1.5 million members of the church and 800 priests. It reported last fall it was suffering from a “severe and complex” financial deficit.

Skanska, part of Stockholm-based Skanska AB, said it had extended payment deadlines and discussed alternatives with the archdiocese to try to keep the project going but ultimately had to halt construction.

“We regret that stopping work was the only viable option at this point in time,” Skanska USA Executive Vice President Tom Webb said in a statement Tuesday. “We are confident that they will find the funding to complete this work at some point in the future.”

The St. Nicholas shrine, meant as a salve for the faithful and a welcoming space for those wishing to reflect, was inspired by two Byzantine shrines in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora. The building was to be sheathed in marble from quarries north of Athens, the vein of marble used to build the Parthenon.

The original St. Nicholas was far more modest. The building housed a tavern when Greek immigrants bought it in 1919 to use as a church. It was the only building not part of the trade center complex that was demolished after hijackers flew commercial jets into the towers.

By COLLEEN LONG,  Associated Press, published on STL.NEWS by St. Louis Media, LLC (JS)

Obama to Prince Harry: Leaders must use care on social media

NEW YORK/ December 27, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Former President Barack Obama told Prince Harry in an interview broadcast Wednesday that people in leadership roles must be careful in their use of social media and warned against spending too much time immersed in the internet at the expense of the world outside.
Obama did not, however, directly mention his successor, President Donald Trump, who has made the use of Twitter a centerpiece of his presidency.
“All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet,” he said. “One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”
He spoke with Harry in the prince’s capacity as guest editor of the BBC Radio 4 news program. Both men said the interview, recorded in Canada in September, was Obama’s first since leaving the presidency in January.
Obama said he felt serene the day he left the White House at the end of his second four-year term despite the vast amount of work that remained unfinished. He said it was “hugely liberating” to be able to set his own agenda in the morning to have the time to talk with his wife, Michelle, now that he is no longer president.
“I miss the work itself because it was fascinating,” Obama said of his eight years in the Oval Office, citing his health care reforms as one of his proudest achievements.
In a brief live segment at the end of the show, Harry said he did not know if Obama would be on the guest list for his wedding in May to American actress Meghan Markle.
“I don’t know about that, we haven’t even put the invite or the guest list together, who knows if he’s going to be invited or not,” Harry said. “I wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise.”
The Sun newspaper, a popular tabloid, has suggested that the British government is concerned that Harry and Markle may invite the Obamas but not Trump, possibly straining ties between the two governments.
Harry did say his fiancee enjoyed her first Christmas with the royal family.
“The family loved having her there,” Harry said.
The prince used his position to ask Obama a “lightning round” of questions of the type normally asked of entertainers, not politicians.
The former president declined to say whether he wears boxers or briefs, preserving a bit of post-presidential dignity, but was willing to say he prefers Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner — “Aretha is the best,” he said of the Queen of Soul — and favors retired basketball star Michael Jordan over current phenom LeBron James.
Obama rejected gloomy prognostications about the state of the world, saying that in many ways the world is healthier and wealthier than it has ever been, making it perhaps the best time in human history to be born.
He cited improved treatment of African-Americans and greatly expanded opportunities for young women as achievements of the past few generations that give him hope for the future.
Harry also interviewed his father, Prince Charles, who offered a more downbeat assessment. He said the root causes of climate change are not being addressed even as it caused “untold horrors” in different parts of the world.

By GREGORY KATZ,  Associated Press, published on STL.NEWS by St. Louis Media, LLC (JS)