Councilman Tony Avella Pledges Support
Despite heavy rain, on Saturday, April 22nd, about 100 demonstrators gathered on Grand Avenue in Maspeth to preserve the historic 1847 St. Saviour's church and property. The Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) and the Maspeth/Middle Village Task Force sponsored the rally in Maspeth. Councilman Tony Avella (D-College Point), the only elected official present, pledged his support for the effort.
The JPCA and Christina Wilkinson, Chairperson of the civic's Committee to Save St. Saviour's, is proposing that the City of New York step in to purchase the historic St. Savior's church property and save it as a cultural center and park. The church, built in 1847, could be turned into headquarters for the Newtown Historical Society, a museum spotlighting the history of western Queens, including all the neighborhoods that once made up Newtown, including Maspeth, Middle Village, Elmhurst, Glendale and Ridgewood. Exhibits would include history of the area's indigenous people, early settlers and slaves.
The Sunday school building might become a "hands-on" learning center for area children. There are currently no such learning centers in this area. Outdoors and adjacent to this site would be a children's play area in a natural setting.
The rectory building might house an organization to assist veterans, along with a nature center pertaining to the revitalization of Newtown Creek. The rest of the grounds would be dedicated for use as a passive park and a community garden, so area children (and adults) can learn more about and participate in gardening and farming projects.
This piece of land contains documented references to Native American, African-American, colonial and Newtown Creek history. Dewitt Clinton and James Maurice, important historical figures, are tied to the land. Since this is the place where the colonization of Queens started, and is an archeologically rich area, it needs to be preserved and the story told. Our park proposal honors the contributions made by all the people who have shaped western Queens up to this point.
"We're disappointed that none of our community's elected officials attended the rally but we still have hope that they will be actively advocating for more of the budget for parks in Queens so that this proposal may become a reality," said Wilkinson.
It was learned this week that Maspeth Federal Savings Bank issued a mortgage to the developer, Maspeth Development LLC, to demolish St. Savior's and build up to 71 residential units on the site. Maspeth Development LLC is seeking a change in zoning for the property. Demonstrators at the rally called on Maspeth Federal Bank to stop lending money to developers who are destroying neighborhood history.
Three weeks ago a stop demolition work order was issued by the NYC Department of Buildings based on a complaint from the Juniper Park Civic Association. It was discovered that the developer was improperly removing asbestos from the church. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) stopped the illegal asbestos abatement and the Department of Buildings issued a stop work order.
On Friday, April 21st, based on a complaint from the Juniper Park Civic Association, an inspector from the NYC Department of Buildings visited the site and discovered the developer violating the stop work order. The DOB inspector posted two stop work notices on the property.
Neighbors also claim that since January 1, 2006 the developer has been illegally using the site as a waste transfer station with trucks dumping debris as late as midnight disturbing the neighborhood.
"This developer has shown nothing but distain for the community and a total disregard for the law, we are calling on the City of New York to investigate this illegal activity," said Robert Holden, president of the JPCA.
For more information please call Robert Holden, 718-651-5865