Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Saviour's Backers Fight Development by Rebecca Henely -

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Maspeth Development LLC has filed plans to build warehouses on the former site of St. Saviour's Church in Maspeth, despite community activist and political support for parkland on the spot.

Despite efforts by area politicians and activists to preserve the property, Scott Kushnick, developer at Maspeth Development LLC, said he is moving forward with plans to build warehouses at the former site of St. Saviour’s Church at 57-40 58th Street in Maspeth.

“It would be a shame if there were warehouses built there,” said Maspeth resident and activist Christina Wilkinson.

The site has long held the interest of western Queens activists, who want to preserve the area as parkland. The land was sold to Maspeth Development in 2006, which formerly wanted to sell the land or develop it as apartment buildings. In 2008, Maspeth Development, LLC, donated the church building to the Juniper Park Civic Association and allowed the group to remove the 163-year-old church from the site. The Association dismantled it piece by piece to be rebuilt later.

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said in an e-mail the church would be rebuilt either at the original site, if the city can acquire the land as the association hopes, or it would be at All Faiths Cemetery at Middle Village.

“The St. Saviour’s site is one of the last historic properties in Queens County,” Holden said. “It must be saved.”

The plan to turn the site into a parkland is supported by the area’s elected officials.

“Maspeth has been under-served when it comes to park space and we need to seize on this opportunity to invest in open space for the residents of Maspeth,” City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said in a statement. “That is why Borough President [Helen] Marshall and I secured $1.5 million to acquire park space in this area of Maspeth. I hope the owners of the property see this commitment and begin negotiations to sell the property to the city as soon as possible.”

Yet Kushnick said the offer from Marshall and Crowley was not a “real offer” since he paid between $7 million and $8 million for the property.

“The amount of money that they have is a fraction of the value of this property,” Kushnick said.

He has submitted plans for warehouses to the city Department of Buildings, which have not been reviewed yet.

Wilkinson said she does not see the purpose of building warehouses on the site, pointing out that the West Maspeth area already has many empty warehouses.

“I’m not a businessperson, but to me that just doesn’t seem like a very smart decision,” she said.

Wilkinson said she believed the developers should see the money raised by Crowley and Marshall as the city making a commitment to turning the area into parkland.

“The problem is he’s not negotiating with the city,” she said.

Holden also called upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help.

“He should make good on his promise of building more parks,” Holden said, “especially for the neighborhoods that desperately need more greenspace such as Maspeth.”

Note: This story has been corrected since publication to reflect the fact that Maspeth Development donated the church building to the Juniper Park Civic