WATERVLIET, N.Y. - Residents looked on as historic symbols came down from the St. Patrick's Church in Watervliet Tuesday morning. As residents continued to watch memories came flooding back about their lives at the church.
"We were baptized in this church. I made my 1st communion, confirmation, everything," said Peter Sutherland of Watervliet.
As former parishioners watched the cross come down, a final symbol that their church was no longer going to be there. Sutherland took pictures as its bell was lowered to the stairway he walked up countless times.
"It just isn't the same as going to the church that you grew up in," said Sutherland.
For Donna Wellworth the cross was a sign of her family's history being lost. All that will be left for Wellworth is a photo album she made.
"My great grandmother went to Troy as I said, brought the bricks and brought them for the brick layers so it's a lot of history in our family," said Wellworth.
Wellworth may find some comfort in visiting some of the historic items that will be displayed at the Watervliet Historical Society Museum.
"It's sad there's no doubt about it. Apparently it's a way of life right now. It was a family oriented very ethnic city at one time and that's changed," said President of the city's historical society, Tom Ragosta.
A unanimous decision was made in Watervliet last November to rezone the property that will pave the way for the tearing down of the historic Church.
"There's five churches in Watervliet. There's only one left," said Sutherland.
Development group Nigro Companies wants to clear the 19th Street site between Fifth and Sixth Avenues for a 40,000 square-foot commercial space including a supermarket.
While St. Patrick's has been empty and deteriorating, supporters say it should be restored, not torn down.
Work began in January to dismantle the church. The Atlanta-based company clearing out the church is charged with removing all of the artifacts inside, and instead of discarding the items; the group actually rehabs and refurbishes them to be used in other churches.
Citizens for St. Patrick's rushed over to the church Tuesday after hearing news that a crane had arrived.
"We started last march advocating at public meetings and we're going to continue advocating in the courts," said Christine Bulmer with Citizens for St. Patrick's.
The group is still holding hope that it can stop the demolition of the church.
"The lawsuits are on SECRA violations against the city of Watervliet that regards improper zoning, what we feel is the improper zoning of the property," said Bulmer.
John Nigro of Nigro Companies released the following statement on the demolition of St. Patrick's Church:
"We have been in accordance with all of the regulations for the last ten months in the City of Watervliet. We believe we have all of those authorities in place and we'll be going forward with a comprehensive plan."
Nigro Companies did say there have been some complaints filed but some have been dismissed and none of them have stopped its demolition plans.
Some residents looked on with tears as the church's bell came down,but others saw a positive future.
"It's I guess progress you know for the city to have something new going in eventually,"said Laurie Sylvester of Watervliet.
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