Thursday, March 11, 2010

Preservationists Present Plans for St. Saviour’s Site by Jeremy Walsh -

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Proponents of transforming the old St. Saviour’s site into a city park have drafted this photo rendering of what it might look like. Image courtesy Christina Wilkinson

Although state funding for the land acquisition is in doubt, a preservationist group has unveiled a new look for the former site of St. Saviour’s Church in Maspeth.

Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, unveiled a photo rendering of what the 1.5-acre property at 57-40 57th Road would look like if purchased by the city and transformed into a park.

“I met with the residents who live around the site and they listed the amenities they would like to have in the proposed park,” she said at a Community Board 5 meeting last week. “It looks very nice.”

The features they requested include a wrought iron fence, walking paths, benches, restrooms, a playground for young children, a flagpole, a landscaped hill with a statue, and a thick line of trees shielding the park from noise and pollution along Rust Street, a main thoroughfare for trucks.

The movement to acquire the land for a park began last summer after city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe indicated the agency would be interested in buying the property if local elected officials could find the funding. The city has since conducted an appraisal of the property, but those numbers have not been released, Wilkinson said.

But the city’s best hope for buying the land, a property acquisition program within the state Environmental Protection Fund, is in jeopardy as Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature struggle to close a projected $8.2 billion deficit.

The governor’s initial budget proposed a 20 percent reduction to the fund from $255 million to $205 million and would change its primary funding source from the real estate transfer tax to an updated bottle deposit law expected to bring in an estimated $118 million in unclaimed recycling deposits.

State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash warned City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) last month that the changes would indefinitely suspend the property acquisition program.

State Assembly members Marge Markey (D-Ridgewood) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) have both signed on to a letter asking Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to spare the fund.

The church was built in 1847 and sold to the developer in 2005. The land has been for sale to developers since 2006. The owner, Maspeth Development, hired Manhattan-based Berko & Associates last year. They listed the property for $8.5 million, though a source said the owner is asking for $9 million. The city Department of Finance has assessed its 2010 property tax value at $2.2 million.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.