Work begins on historic Sandy-damaged church

Restoration work has started on a centuries-old New Jersey church that was damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

The Belleville Dutch Reformed Church was founded in 1697 and serves as a landmark that is visible to drivers on nearby Route 21. The storm badly battered the church's steeple, leaving its cross bent.

The congregation needed $30,000 to start the restoration, which is being performed by Cole NYC. The company has performed work on the Empire State Building and is securing an engineering report on the steeple.

The Coles saw the teetering steeple and wanted to help. "I spent the first 36 years of my life in New Jersey, and it feels good," Ken Cole Jr. said, referring to the restoration.

The riggers who climbed up the steeple are called "steeplejacks." James Marksbury was among them. "Beautiful view from up here. You can see all of downtown Newark," he said.

But Marksbury was there to help assess the damage. "Scale of one to 10, I would say this church is about an eight," he said. "It's in pretty rough shape. No way would this church last through another big storm like Sandy."

Miguel Ortiz, the church's pastor, believes that his congregation's prayers have been answered after two years of fundraising. "Me and the church are very grateful," he said. "It's the end of an era."

But it also marks the beginning of a new chapter for the church, which has secured $250,000 for the work. The congregation needs close to $500,000 to complete the job. 

Ortiz hopes that the work will be completed around fall; he wants to hold a dedication ceremony around Christmas.

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