Monday, July 23, 2007

Romanian court orders halt to construction next to Bucharest cathedral

By Victor Gaetan

Catholic News Service

BUCHAREST, Romania (CNS) - A county-level court ordered a halt to construction of a 19-story office tower being built about 30 feet from the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Bucharest, but a representative of the U.S. company that is investing in the project said it had not received the order.

The mid-July court ruling affirmed the petition of the Archdiocese of Bucharest that construction stop until the development's legality is established. The ruling came after a year of parishioner hunger strikes, protest marches, appeals to the Romanian president and Vatican statements of support for the archdiocese.

A representative from the legal department of Miller Global Properties in Denver told Catholic News Service, "We'll comply with this court order - when we're properly served." He refused to give his name.

A hearing is scheduled for early September to review the legality of construction permits issued by the Bucharest City Hall.

Numerous experts and institutions, including the Romanian Senate, have concluded that the building violates laws governing construction, public safety and the protection of historical monuments. Last fall, the Senate directed the prime minister to expropriate the property on which the controversial building, called Cathedral Plaza, is being built.

The archdiocese and independent experts said the office tower threatens the structural integrity of the cathedral, a historic building with protected status. Considering Bucharest's location in an active earthquake zone, the risk of the tower collapsing and crushing its neighbor is real, experts have said.

The European Parliament is currently circulating a written declaration condemning the construction of the office tower because it threatens the physical and cultural integrity of the cathedral. The declaration needs 393 signatures of Parliament members; organizers have more than 300 signatures.

Local developer Millennium SRL and its American investors at Miller Global have proceeded with construction despite questions surrounding the project.

Emanuel Necula, a New-York based structural engineer employed by Millennium SRL in 2005 to complete major aspects of the development, said the project is a direct threat to the cathedral.

"I quit when I realized how corrupt the project managers were," he said. "They have not done proper engineering studies, they cut corners, and they flagrantly ignore professional requirements to protect public safety let alone national cultural patrimony.

"The cathedral has already suffered irreversible damage," said Necula. "It has been damaged by ground movement during construction of the neighboring tower's infrastructure."

Necula testified before the Romanian Senate against Cathedral Plaza and continues to advise Bucharest Archbishop Ioan Robu and the church defense team.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have visited this project. Currently a 19 story skeleton of a building is all that remains of the site. Bucharest City Hall should immediately resolve this mess and either demolish the skeleton or let the developers get on with the project.