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Historic East Village Church Set To Reopen After Nearly Being Demolished

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TWC News: Historic East Village Church Set To Reopen After Nearly Being Demolished
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An historic East Village church that was on the brink of demolition before being saved by a multi-million-dollar donation is set to reopen this weekend. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated St. Brigid-St. Emeric Church. It will reopen Sunday.

The church was originally constructed in the 1840s by survivors of the Irish potato famine.

The building itself is something of a survivor. The historic structure was slated for demolition before an anonymous donor stepped in with a $20 million gift to save it in 2008.

"Thank God appeared somebody to donate the money, and there was joy for everybody," said Rev. Lorenz Ato, administrator of St. Brigid-St. Emeric Church.

In 2001, the New York Archdiocese closed the church because it was declared structurally unstable. They planned to knock it down entirely because they said it was too costly to repair.

There was a lengthy court battle between the Archdiocese and supporters who wanted to keep the church standing. Some of the windows and interior were dismantled in 2006.

But the donation stopped all that and funded a major renovation project that solidified the foundation and a crumbling back wall, replaced the glass windows and created 600 seats for parishioners.

"We were able to maintain the look with new construction techniques, so it can give the effect of what was here 140 years ago, and you have that today," said contractor Christian Fitzgerald.

"It's a church, it's a religious institution, but just like in a town square in Europe, there was an edge of civic pride," said architect Michael Doyle.

The architect said the total cost of the renovation was approximately $15 million. It took around 4 years to complete.

Ed Torres is the leader of the Committee to Save Saint Brigid's. He's thrilled about the result of the renovations.

"This really allows you to appreciate what you almost lost, because we were almost there," Torres said. "So that much more excitement, that much more enthusiasm."

Cardinal Dolan will lead the first mass at the newly reopened building on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.

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