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Queens Chronicle

St. Saviour’s push hits a new snag

New site needed to store parts of disassembled 1847 Maspeth church

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Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:52 pm, Thu Mar 1, 2012.

In November they lost, at least temporarily, key funding to acquire land they sought for a park.

Now advocates seeking to rebuild the old St. Saviour’s Church are looking for a site to store the disassembled pieces of the 1847 structure.

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, noted that the pieces are sitting in trailers on an industrial property near All Faiths Cemetery.

“The business owner has been great; he donated the space and he donated the trailers about three years ago,” Holden said Tuesday. “But now he needs the space.”

Civic leaders have been trying since 2006 to acquire the 2.5 acres where the church used to sit at 57th Road and 58th Street in Maspeth for a public park.

Holden said supporters will see if promised state and city funding for the project can be used in an effort to relocate the structure with hopes of one day reconstructing it.

The land is now owned by Maspeth Development LLC, which is building warehouses on the site.

Elected officials, the city’s Parks Department and the Bloomberg administration all concur that Maspeth has a need for more green space.

In its efforts to buy the St. Saviour’s land for a park, the city assessed the property at approximately $5 million, while the owners are thought to be asking more than $7 million. Elected and civic leaders have been attempting to cobble together grants and donations to make up the difference.

The project suffered a blow in November when Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) pulled out funding she had dedicated to the purchase.

Crowley said in November and again at a meeting with the Chronicle’s editorial board in January that she does not consider the St. Saviour’s purchase dead.

She also said on both occasions that the money could be lost if the city remains caught up in prolonged negotiations with Maspeth Development, which she considers an unwilling seller.

Crowley indicated it would be illegal for the city to pay more than assessed value for a piece of land, and in the case of the St. Saviour parcel the owner is thought to be asking nearly 50 percent above that mark.

And while both she and the Parks Department have said the St. Saviour’s property still may be a viable option in the future, Crowley has suggested looking at a parcel in Maspeth owned by Martin Luther High School, which is about one third of the size.

Advocates of a St. Saviour park project have argued that the Martin Luther site is too small to be seen as a replacement, and feel there is no reason that the city cannot pursue both properties simultaneously.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr (D-Howard Beach) recently floated the idea that the city could acquire the St. Saviour’s property by eminent domain, or at least the portion that does not yet contain warehouses.

But Crowley has said that has the potential to jack up the price even further given the legal costs and the possibility that the city might have to buy the buildings only to pay to tear them down afterward.

Holden said Tuesday that he has heard nothing new on the Martin Luther property.

“Ask Elizabeth Crowley,” said Holden, a frequent critic of the councilwoman, and seldom more so than on the subject of the St. Saviour’s property funding withdrawal.

Crowley’s office said on Wednesday that the councilwoman has been in contact with the Parks Department about the Martin Luther site and that the Parks Department has had preliminary contacts with the school.

A spokeswoman for Martin Luther HS said last week that school officials had no new comment on the proposal.

Representatives of the Parks Department could not be reached for comment prior to the Chronicle’s deadline on Wednesday afternoon.

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