50 People To Know: Restoring St. Peter’s Bells With Mike Cavanaugh

WCBS 880 Celebrates 50 Years Of Covering News In New York

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – The bells of St. Peter’s, Staten Island’s oldest Roman Catholic church, toll again thanks to some intrepid volunteers led by retired Local 3 electrician Mike Cavanaugh.

“It is music to my ears, wow,” he tells Sean Adams.

img 1839 50 People To Know: Restoring St. Peter’s Bells With Mike Cavanaugh

(Credit: WCBS Newsradio 880)

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It’s a sound not heard on the borough’s north shore in roughly 30 years.

“My son and my friends all kicked in. Unfortunately, my partner that I started with, Tommy Binder – my Local 3 electrician partner – passed away,” Cavanaugh says.

The Kiwanis Club approached Cavanaugh.

“I said, ‘Well, that sounds like an exciting venture.’ Not having any clue that it’s a 15-story tower with rotten stairs,” he says.

More: Father & Son Volunteer To Fix Bells At Staten Island’s Oldest Catholic Church

Narrow, steep, wrought iron stairs.

“Initially, I used to go down backwards with a good grip, like kind of crawling. Then, my foot stepped into air,” he says.

Iron workers stabilized the stairs. For decades, rain and pigeons had penetrated the tower.

“Every thing was rotten, except the bells,” Cavanaugh says. “The controls were all completely rusted through.”

He, his firefighter son, Danny, and the other Good Samaritans ran nearly 4,000 feet of wire to power 10 bells, four clocks and the chimes.

Apparently, their work is top-rate.

“I got a call from my parish, ‘By the way, our bell doesn’t work,’” Cavanaugh says with a laugh.

All kidding aside, he is especially proud of this restoration because it honors his friend.

“We have a plaque above the entrance to the bell tower, ‘In memory of Tom Binder,’” he says.

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