Manhattan church suffers significant damage after water main break

MIDTOWN EAST, Manhattan (WABC) -- A water main break significantly damaged a Manhattan church Monday.

It happened at Saint Peter's Church on 54th Street and Lexington Avenue in Midtown East.

Officials say a city water main located under the plaza shared by Saint Peter's Church, the Citigroup Center, and the subway entrance at the corner of 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue broke on the morning of January 4, causing significant flooding in the church's sanctuary and basement level rooms.

As crews continue to work to remove water from the affected areas, officials say historical artifacts will be removed and preserved on ice to ensure no further damage.

These artifacts include artwork from Massimo Vignelli, historical and cutting edge musical equipment and priceless iconography that dates as far back as the 1800s. Musical archives from this 'First Church of Jazz' known for its rich Jazz Vespers program, include jazz archives from John Coltrane, Carline Ray, and Billy Strayhorn, Barry Harris, and Roswell Rudd.

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This has been a year of challenges for the congregation that has lost more than 62 members due to the COVID-19 crisis and represents a tragedy for the communities that Saint Peter's Church serves.

"After not having left a single inch of this building unexamined, we still do not know the extent of the damage," said Rev. Jared Stahler, Senior Pastor of Saint Peter's Church. "New York history, cultural artifacts, architecture and design gems, this building's infrastructure. We will do everything we can to save all of this and more, because this community - the rich array of religious and non-religious persons, individuals living on the margin of society and those at the center of power, artists and actors, immigrants and seniors, jazz and classical musicians, dancers and tourists - knows the gift of humanity fostered in this place."

Rev. Paul Egensteinger, Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod, also shared his thoughts on the incident.

"News of the damage caused by the water main break at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan is sad and devastating for a congregation already hard hit in these challenging times. Because we are Church together, it is a burden and sadness shared by all New York Lutherans and people of faith. Already, though, Lutherans throughout New York have offered prayers and support for the people and staff of Saint Peter's in many ways.

Officials say Nevelson Chapel, a masterpiece created by late artist Louise Nevelson and located at the church's upper level, was thankfully not impacted by the event.

The Department of Environmental Protection states NYC has recorded the fewest water main breaks since record keeping began last year, and thus far this year, they are running 18% below that.

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