Christabel Gough from the Society for the Architecture of the City and Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, as well as Christina Wilkinson of JPCA, spoke in support of saving the historic St. Saviour's site at the September 12th budget hearing at Community Board 5. Below are their statements:
Statement of the Juniper Park Civic Association
St. Saviour's Church, located at 57-40 57th Road, and St. Saviour's Parsonage, located at 57-40 58th Street in West Maspeth remain in grave danger of being torn down and the land built upon. The site was listed as an ideal spot for a cultural center in the 2007-2008 Budget, but the city has said that enough funds do not exist at this time. With billions of dollars in budget surplus, I find this hard to believe.
Councilman Gallagher claimed in July that he secured $1 million for purchase of a portion of the property. A week later, the trees on the property were cut down and now we are receiving word that the developer plans to demolish the parsonage. The Juniper Park Civic Association met with the Parks Department last week and we were told that a million dollars was not allocated to them for the project, although they are the agency listed in the budget as being responsible to do so. I hope this community board investigates where this money went or if it even existed in the first place.
With a little thinking outside of the box, St. Saviour's can still be saved, but only if this community board starts pushing the city to do so. It was listed as budget priority #9 but we have yet to see any correspondence between the community board and the mayor and borough president's offices asking for funding. Now is the time to correct that. If we can get the city to publicly state that this site has the potential to be a park, funding from outside sources becomes more likely.
JPCA proposed a land swap which would be of minimal cost to the city. Under this plan, all parties involved would benefit ‒ the city would gain more park space and housing, the community would get a desperately needed park and community center and the developer would still make a profit. The Parks Department admitted last Friday that West Maspeth was intentionally left out of the 2030 plan to have a park within 10 minutes walking distance of each city resident. I find this unacceptable and I would hope that community board 5 shares this sentiment.
It would be a shame to write this chapter of Maspeth history and note that people who could have done something to preserve our past and plan for our future sat back and allowed petty politics to destroy our neighborhood.
In addition, I would like to note that the plan to remove hundreds of trees from the basins of the Ridgewood Reservoir and replace them with concrete and artificial turf is an environmentally unfriendly and foolish plan. The park contains precious natural resources and needs to be renovated in a way that preserves and protects the existing flora and fauna. With a $55 million allocation from the city, this should be easy to do.
Christina Wilkinson, Secretary
September 12, 2007
Statement of the Historic Districts Council
The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City's designated historic districts, individual landmarks and structures meriting preservation. The Council is dedicated to preserving the integrity of New York City's Landmarks Law and to furthering the preservation ethic. We thank Community Board 5 Queens for allowing us the opportunity to testify today on behalf of a request to establish a Community/Cultural/Recreation Center at the former St. Saviour's Church in Maspeth.
I will not go into depth over the historic, cultural and architectural significance of St. Saviour's, as this is a case that has already been strongly made many times. What I wish to point out is that St. Saviour's offers an excellent opportunity to adaptively re-use an important building while serving the community's needs.
St. Saviour's, no longer a church, is in need of a new use, and CB 5 Queens is in need of community facilities and parkland. While PLANYC 2030 calls for the establishment of new parks so that all New Yorkers can live within a 10-minute walk of one and this neighborhood is one of the least served by public parkland, here are two acres of land just waiting for the official title "park". For over 150 years, St. Saviour's was the center of the community. For generations, the church offered its grounds as a neighborhood park where children played, factory workers took their lunch breaks and families socialized. Returning the land to such a purpose while using the church and its related structures as community facilities is a chance to preserve a piece of the area's past while giving to its present and future.
Nadezhda Williams, Preservation Associate
September 12, 2007
Statement of the Society for the Architecture of the City
The Society for the Architecture of the City is an historic preservation advocacy group, and we have joined in the effort to preserve St. Saviour's Church and the greenspace around it. This block was green open space for the people of Maspeth before Maspeth was part of New York City, and before New York City had a Parks Department. It should stay that way. In fact, Congressman Maurice, for whom Maurice Avenue is named, gave this land just shortly before city government in Manhattan decided that there was a need for public parks, and bought the land to create Central Park, forming the first Parks Commission to supervise building it in 1857—ten years after St. Saviour's was built on a wooded hill overlooking Newtown Creek, near the summer home of DeWitt Clinton, who became governor of New York. Congressman Maurice was a visionary proponent of green space, the St. Saviour's site is historic, and professional conservators (Jablonski, Berkowitz) have surveyed it and determined that the church can be restored. We would urge you to give St. Saviour's a high budget priority, and save this fine historic property for public use.
Christabel Gough, Secretary
September 12, 2007