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Queens Chronicle

Church Demolition Plan Still Not Moving Forward

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2008 12:00 am

Two weeks after neighbors of a historic Maspeth church were told the building would soon be razed, the 160-year-old sanctuary remains standing as its owner reportedly searches for a new demolition firm.

On Jan. 23, residents began finding small posters near the Rust Street property notifying them that Maspeth demolition contractor Always Fast, Inc., was scheduled to raze the battered sanctuary in five days or more.

Javier Marsico, spokesman for the demolisher’s permit expediter, Expedite This, later confirmed that the company had planned to raze the church by the end of January.

But those plans stalled after the church’s owner, Maspeth Development, LLC, reportedly scrapped its contract with Always Fast and began seeking a new demolisher to finish the job. The owner could not be reached to explain why he had switched.

However, even now, a number of hurdles stand in the owner’s way — starting with a broken fence. Last Friday, an evening storm toppled part of the perimeter’s safety fencing, which the city requires for any construction work.

According to Marsico, the site may also be too messy for further work. “There’s too much crap at that job site,” he griped. “It’s a mess, the fence is falling, there’s trash.”

What’s more, the owner has yet to obtain the necessary permits to demolish the sanctuary, said Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings.

“At this point,” Marsico said, “it’s still up to the owner when that church goes down.”

Demolition crews razed the church’s parsonage in December after obtaining proper permits, Lindquist noted — but the owner later incurred a violation after the contractor was found to be using a bulldozer for the work, rather than the permissible hand tools.

“ccurring just months after the owner removed 185 mature trees from the property, the destruction of the parsonage quickly stoked fears among residents that the adjoining sanctuary would be toppled next.

But with a second demolition delayed indefinitely, civic group members say they are relieved that the church remains intact.

“We haven’t given up hope,” said Juniper Park Civic Association member Christina Wilkinson, whose group has spearheaded a lobbying effort to have the mayor convert the 1.5-acre site into a public park.

“This site has seen worse situations where we thought it was going to finally come down,” Wilkinson added. “But something always ends up coming through in the end.”

The church originally served as a place of worship for decades until the fall of 2005, when Maspeth Development bought the site and applied for zoning changes that would allow for 70 units of housing.

Since then, the civic group has fought to block all development efforts — securing stop work orders; filing a lawsuit, which failed; and finally, lobbying the city to deny the requisite zoning changes.

In December, the developer withdrew his application to change the zoning from manufacturing to residential, and later placed the property back on the market with an asking price of $10 million.

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