NEW YORK – Five years after tiny St. Nicholas Church was crushed in the collapse of the nearby twin towers of the World Trade Center, parishioners finally know where they’ll rebuild.

A larger St. Nicholas will rise on the southwest corner of Greenwich and Liberty streets, about two blocks east of the original Cedar Street location, starting in 2009.

The church will serve a close-knit Greek Orthodox congregation of about 80 families – and offer visitors of all faiths a haven for reflection on what many consider sacred ground.

“We all can’t wait to start building,” said John Pitsikalis, 57, a life-long parishioner who heads the parish council.

“It will probably be very traditional, in the Byzantine style,” he added, though an architect won’t be hired to design the structure until site dimensions are pinned down in further discussions with the Port Authority.

“The church is really the last piece of a complex puzzle,” said New York architect Nicholas Koutsomitis, who is helping to plan the site.

The first priority in the immediate vicinity is construction of a $500 million security center under Liberty Street that will screen tour buses and trucks.

The new St. Nicholas will be built on top of the security center, which also will be covered by a multitiered park that will rise above street level, from a point west of the church

The church parcel “is an ideal location,” Koutsomitis said, because it won’t be on hilly ground.

“We want the church to be accessible to all,” he added.

The 22-foot-wide building destroyed on 9-11 was an early 19th-century home that St. Nicholas parishioners first used as a church in 1922. Among the church’s first members were the parents of “Kojak” actor Telly Savalas.

“St. Nicholas has a long history at the World Trade Center,” Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said. “Our people have been working closely with them to find a location they would be comfortable with.”

While parishioners wait for their new home, many have gone to Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Brooklyn, where their St. Nicholas pastor, the Rev. John Romas, has led Sunday liturgies.

Pitsikalis estimated that construction and heightened security requirements will drive the total cost of the new church above $10 million.

New York shipping executive John Couloucoundis, 48, who first went to St. Nicholas with his father, will lead a fundraising drive.

“We won’t go out and beat a drum for donations until we have a conceptual drawing, so people can see what their money will go to,” he said.

The parish already has about $4.5 million, from insurance proceeds and contributions received after 9-11.

“A lot of people felt sorry for our little church,” Pitsikalis said.


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