No More St. Nicholas Shrine; It’s Now St. Calatrava Shrine

Building material in the inside of St. Nicholas nave at Ground Zero. The construction was stopped one year ago due to lack of money by the Archdiocese. TNH/Costas Bej

The heading of this article could have been OXI St. Nicholas Shrine, SI St. Calatrava Shrine.

Welcome to the modern version of Medea by Euripides where the hiring of Calatrava to complete the shrine murders off any opportunity for a Greek Orthodox authentic architectural involvement in its completion. Of all the worldwide productions of Medea in numerous languages it is ironic that this atrocity should fall to us, the Greeks.

Where to begin? Time and again our media have excoriated Santiago Calatrava for outstripping budgets while creating structures blemished with technical lapses built in his ostentatious pattern of design and almost always behind schedule.

To be sure his guileful innovative architectural structures are awesome to behold. Yet the construction and completion process of his designs leave in many cases seemingly, serious engineering design flaws with spiraling out of control costs.

In the 208 projects Calatrava has worked on since 1979, at least 30 have been cited as over budget, abandoned or involved in lawsuits. Fellow Greek Orthodox followers, please digest this for a moment.

In Spain alone, 8 projects were saddled with cost over runs amounting in the 100’s of millions of dollars. Most notably, he has been called “a high-risk” architect. It seems deservedly so.

Most of his abandoned and silently disappearing projects, plus the horrendous financial costs associated with them, have left cities, universities and entrepreneurs struggling to recover from insolvency.

In what you have read thus far, you might ask, so what? You might say I read all of this stuff in the NY Times, the NY Post, NY Magazine and other media. What’s it to you? Why should I care?

As a member of the Orthodox faith, I care a great deal in the fact that Santiago Calatrava is once again going to be involved in the St. Nicholas shrine at the World Trade Center. ENOUGH! It is with full measure that he designed the shrine and his name will always be associated with it. It is not enough that hard working Greek Americans who have contributed generously in support of its construction are being further taken advantage of for the completion of this shrine? What’s next?

What! Don’t we have any reputable Greek Orthodox architects? It’s a shame that we have to endure the pomposity and arrogance and yet alone possible errors and omissions in the work Calatrava has already completed.

Then too, the Port Authority (PA), the monster which controls all bridges, rail and highways in NYC, NY state and NJ, has had and is having, a heyday in scandals, subpoenas and various exposes related to its budget and the World Trade Center. The PA appears to be the refuge of worn out politicians and their favorite old boy comrades, gathering big salaries, huge retirement pensions and bonuses. It is typical that this kind of organization would hire an architect the likes of Santiago Calatrava.

The PA says to hell with you drivers, passengers and working class who have to shell out $32-plus to travel to and from work to use their infrastructure. I only mention this as background in what follows. Now comes the esteemed, innocent newbie Archbishop Elpidoforos, I fully expected, please forgive my naivety, that once his spiritual mission would begin, there would be a “house cleaning” at the Archdiocesan and Diocesan levels. None of which has yet happened.

What we have so far is a couple of new people at HCHC and zero at the Archdiocese revenue office, plus apparently, we are enveloped with a surprising lack of interest in cleaning the 25 years of disorder. So far, the Greek Orthodox Church in the 21st Century in America in this new age of the spiritual reign of the Archbishop has thus far allowed the church to remain a matter of personal convenience, no waves, no progress.

So, in spite all of the media coverage on Santiago Calatrava, we are presented with a new agreement by the PA and the Archdiocese to finalize the shrine. Where is the Greek American press? They are an important source of news and provide salient comments benefiting their Greek American readers. So why are they so quiet in accepting the employment of an over budget, beyond fixed completion dates Calatrava to be re-involved.

Just ponder you wonderful Guarantors, at a projected finish cost of $80 million, the shrine will have a price of $22,000 per square foot. Take away all the glamor, the aesthetic feelings in your involvement in this Calatrava shrine, why would you not only endorse but put your children and inheritance in this awkward position just to puff your chest and collective pride?

You know we Greeks have a lot of pride and we have a lot to be thankful for, but with the word getting out that we have invested in the shrine at $22,000/ sq. ft, we Orthodox will become the laughingstock of all time. Imagine laying this onus on our children and grandchildren.

Remember dear faithful, the shrine was scheduled to be completed at $30 million. I suspect with Calatrava back in the saddle, that the final cost will not be $80 million, but closer to $100 million.

The work of the Lord who has brought brains, talent and wealth to you should not be wasted on Calatrava’s services. The humble point here is that we Orthodox worshippers want the participation of new Orthodox talent, hardworking folk, smart, career successful people who would love and relish the opportunity to be a part of the archdiocese goal to bring Greek Orthodoxy to the faithful, the lapsed, and fallen away and those who are studying to become one of us.

So now ladies and gentlemen of the Guarantor Committee, the ball is in your court.

Mr. Nicholas Karakas, a prominent businessman and philanthropist, is well respected for his many contributions to the Greek American community and for his benevolent philanthropic pursuits, and has received numerous commendations for accomplishments in business, education, and community service.
Karakas helped found the chair of the Greek Professorship which bears his name at the University of Missouri, St Louis. He and professor of Byzantine Music, Diane Touliatos secured the $550,000 to fund the Professorship Chair.  In 1988 he was awarded the presidential Gold Cross of the order of the Phoenix, the most notable commendation conferred by the Hellenic Republic, for his contributions to the cause of Hellensim and to the culture and nation of Greece.
He is a recipient of various medals and awards from the University and has also been awarded with an Honorary Doctoral Degree.
He is also cofounder of the Karakas Family Foundation with his brother Tony Karakas an organization which has awarded scholarship grants to needy college students.  Currently, by the twenty-first year of its existence the Foundation has awarded over 350 scholarship grants to young students.  For the first six years has donated money to winners of the National St. John Chrysostom  Oratorical festival sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Church.  Mr. Karakas is responsible for the establishment of the Mathews-Dickey Endowment Fund, an organization dedicated to the service of 40,000 children in the inner-city St. Louis.  He is one of the founders of the Hellenic Spirit Foundation, comprised of a benevolent group of Greek Americans who organized various events ranging from community service to musical performances and educational programs.  The Spirit annually for Ten years has honored outstanding Greek Americans such as: John Catsimatides, Ike Pappas, Admiral Kallares among other notables.

Karakasn@yahoo.com

Naples, FL

This is a paid post.

4 Comments

  1. And what Planet have you been living in..Mr Karakas obviously not Earth…where a U.S military spends 1 million dollars to kill just one foreign citizen, handed over by you ..while they spend about a 500 dollars per person to assist the poor and needy!

    What do you really believe the Myths about Justice and fairness in America! What do you think your Greek Oligarchs listed under your column..do not partake of the feast of corruption !

    Mr. Karakas ..I have a recommendation for you … if you get Netflix ..go directly to on demand..and rent the movie ..THE IRISHMEN…starring Robert Dinero…then watch the entire Godfather Trilogy!

    Once you view these movies …you will wake up from your LA, LA, LAND..illusion of how Capitalism works and how ..the entire country of America is run!

    You will learn who contract the building of skyscrapers. to the destruction and murder of the Nations of the world for money….and favors!

    What,do you think Real Estate Developer.Al Capone Donald Trump and Lucky Luciano Mike Pompeo..do not contract and over charge for the mob hit ..in broad daylight of a military envoy from Iran because they were infringing on their destruction contract of the country of Iraq! What..do you think.. the Port authority of Israel gives out contract to anybody.,heck.it is the least they can do .for Donnie,’s Jewish Son in Law!

    Sorry to break the news to you , but the local, state, and federal gov.of America ..just one big Mafia operation!

  2. I think for 80 million we could’ve built something a lot nicer and more Orthodox looking than what is being built. The architect was a huge mistake from the start. I’m still looking forward to the church’s completion and I hope to be there on that day.

    1. Niko…you state the obvious.. a cathedral that was the trademark of the Orthodox Church

      No way…it must be acceptable to all the tourist of the world ..not of the original church of Christ

      It must be Evangelical and Universal Church look of America…not of the original church of Christ!

      And why not Niko.,just a bigger and enhanced resurrected St. Nicholas Church ..that was dead and buried by evil ..but now back to not just serve Greek Orthodox Christians, but all Christians!

      What a story that would be..to not only Orthodox Christians but all Christians of the world!

      Imagine that …what a story…with the Backdrop of Skyscrapers all around it .. the. St. Nicholas Church would not be lost , just looking like another modern office building but standing out to remind the world, what was once good in the world ..a church to love!

      So Niko , join me in supporting Mr Karakas, to get a new Architect and some Greek Oligarks to modify or rebuild the Original St Nicholas Church. bigger and better with a budget that should be well under 50 million dollars and bring back the original church board and stewarts to supervise and consult with a picture of the Original St Nicholas Church!=

      And Maybe,.we can send a message to the Evangelical reformist who frequent these pages ..that it is time ..you all came home to the Original Church of Christ.and partake in worshiping our lord ..exactly, as it has been built to serve since the Beginning of Christianity!

      Okay!

  3. I would like to point out that while the Port Authority has its own short comings they were not the ones who engaged the services of Santiago Calatrava for the architectural work for the St. Nicholas Shrine it was a committee of laypeople and hierarchs who did; many of whom are now a part of the new Friends of St Nicholas Inc. board and thus any blame for Calatrava’s role in this lays with them and not the Port Authority.

    Of the 38 million dollars spent, Calatrava’s firm was paid $2.8 million per the PwC audit that was performed; here is a fun fact Calatrava wasn’t the architect who was paid out the most money on the St. Nicholas Shrine project – Koutsomitis Architects & RKK&G also a Koutsomitis firm were paid out a combined $3.1 million dollars for their services.

    Another fun fact, the Port Authority has paid out over $17 million dollars in construction costs for the Shrine these costs are not included in any of the church’s numbers, so any estimate that the church gives as far as the completion of the Shrine would need another $17 milllon added to it in order to reflect the true cost of the Shrine.

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