Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) brought his campaign for Congress to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s backyard last Thursday.
Standing at the former site of St. Saviour’s Church in Maspeth, Lancman held a press cnference to say eminent domain would be completely justified in an effort to create a park where the old church stood for more than a century.
“This is a classic case for eminent domain,” Lancman said. He called the site, as it is now, with one warehouse on a corner of the property, an eyesore.
Crowley (D-Middle Village) is running against Lancman and party-backed Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) along with Robert Mittman, a Bayside physician, for the Democratic nod in the 6th Congressional District in the June 26 primary.
The councilwoman has come under heavy criticism from Maspeth residents since November when she shifted her long-time focus from obtaining the 2.5 acre parcel to a smaller piece in Maspeth owned by Martin Luther High School. The parcel since has been determined to not be for sale.
Maspeth residents have been trying for years to secure city money to purchase the 2.5-acre lot at 57th Road and 58th Street for a park in a section of Queens that all agree is underserved in terms of green areas.
Civic leaders attending the press conference — including Bob Holden of the Juniper Valley Civic Association, Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, and Paul Graziano, an urban planner and historic preservation consultant — hope a park can rise on the site, possibly with the reassembled 1847 St. Saviour’s Church.
Lancman, Croft and Graziano acknowledged that eminent domain has been abused by governments across the country in recent years, but that parks, schools and highways always have been considered viable uses for the process.
“If ever a parcel is suitable for eminent domain, this one is,” Croft said.
Holden, a frequent critic of Crowley, noted the building has been sitting disassembled in a pair of trailers since 2009.
Crowley’s campaign declined to comment, but wearing her City Council hat she has said numerous times that eminent domain could be troublesome for a number of reasons, including the fact that the city is authorized to pay no more than the appraised $5 million for the parcel.
She has warned that legal fees, the cost of also acquiring and knocking down the existing warehouse on the site and other things could push the cost millions higher.
Critics at the press conference expressed certainty that Maspeth Development Corp., which has been asking a reported $7 million for the site, intentionally threw up the warehouse in a deliberate effort to jack up the price. The company could not be reached for a response.