Before demolition resumes, a flashlight vigil at the former St. Patrick's Church

Posted at: 05/13/2013 12:57 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

WATERVLIET -- Before a demolition crew takes its third swipe at the last standing remnant of the former St. Patrick's Church, close to 100 people crowded the sidewalk in front of the property Sunday for a unique farewell.

In a twist on the traditional candlelight vigil, they held a flashlight vigil – aiming beams of light at the 137-foot bell tower that twice resisted the pull of steel cables meant to topple it last week.

“I was here with a flashlight the other night and I noticed you could really light it up,” Jim Di Seve, a documentary filmmaker from Troy, told NewsChannel 13. “I mentioned it to a few people, and people said let’s all come with flashlights.”

Di Seve, who is chronicling the former church’s demolition and its effect on the community, said a part of the city’s heritage is being lost.

“They’re tearing down a pillar of the community,” he said. “You can feel the energy here, and you can feel the resistance from the building.”

Onlookers cheered when the cables being used to pull down the bell tower snapped Thursday and again Friday. Some called it “divine intervention.” Demolition efforts are expected to resume this week.

“Our main concern has been, and remains, to do this work safely and with as little impact as possible to the surrounding community,” the developer, Nigro Companies, said in a statement last week. “This is why the pace of the work has been deliberate and step-wise and why we have used exclusively mechanical means to carry it out.”

When the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany closed the church and sold the property to Nigro, the diocese said the building was physically deteriorating and required $4 million to repair. The developer is planning to build a new Price Chopper supermarket in its place.

The opposition group Citizens for St. Patrick’s led an unsuccessful fight to save the former church.

“Sad isn’t an emotion that I feel right now,” the group’s co-leader, Christine Bulmer, said at the flashlight vigil. “I feel anger and frustration at the lack of leadership that allowed this debacle to happen.”

Di Seve, who said he hopes to finish his documentary by St. Patrick’s Day then market it to festivals and television networks, echoed Bulmer’s feeling.

“What’s happening now is that this gift was given from the past to all of us is now being destroyed,” he said. “I just think that’s horrible.”